The Anxiety of the Splash
Often, people hold the stereotypical notion that athletes and mental health have little to do with one another. Regarding student athletes, a lot of the time IT is overlooked that there is a large amount of student athletes dealing with mental health concerns and issues. Some argue that student athletes suffer mentally because of the stress of training and pressure of academics; in reality, there is a deep amount of outliers and variables that can affect how a person feels. Every athlete has different struggles, just as every unique individual has struggles. Popular swimmers that have suffered from mental illness include Michael Phelps, Alisson Schmitt, and Missy Franklin. As certain individuals never have to struggle with anxiety or depression, but some often do, IT introduces the question of why athletes often suffer from them and their intense pressures. This is important to examine, because mental health can affect how a student athlete will perform in training, as well as in school. By examining research about mental health and its effect on student athletes, looking at the specific cases of student athletes, IT is illustrated that swimmers are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and stress throughout their athletic and academic career.
Anxiety and depression can go hand in hand with each other, but they both have different effects on athletes. With anxiety, IT affects how they approach a situation and how some may feel an over wheeling amount of stress that comes with performing. With depression, IT can make an athlete unmotivated to come to their training sessions or stay on top of their workload. These effects are illustrated in a study done by Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, by Rosalyn Stoa, Jana Fogaça, and Logan Johnsen. The purpose of the study was to look at the stress that is put on student athletes special swimmers. Stress has a large role on someone that suffers from anxiety and depression. Most of the stress that comes out of a swim season is from training, school, and making time cuts for championship seasons. The study states, “intrinsic motivation changed over the season in a quadratic manner, hitting its lowest point where stress was also at its highest”. With this quote, we are able to see that even when a swimmer or student athlete is at their highest point in their career, they are also struggling with the amount of stress they have to face. With the added stress of school and competition season, THIS heightens the level of anxiety that a college swimmer has to face.
The Sport Psychologist, by Stephen Pages, focuses on female college students’ experiences with anxiety. The purpose of the study was to see if imaginary techniques could help lower a swimmers stress. Over the course of their season a swim season, a group of swimmers took a test before their first competition and their last. There was a decrease in the amount of stress that the swimmers faced. Steph Pages writes, “ this study suggests that imagery may be able to improve an individual’s perception of anxiety from less positive to more positive”. With this IT brings in a new perspective that, maybe not all anxiety, a swimmer has a negative effect on their performances. Both of these studies show what kind of stress that can affect college swimmers. With this kind of stress on college swimmers, IT will slowly start to cause the stress to turn into anxiety.
Student athletes have a higher chance of experiencing anxiety and depression due to the amount of workload they experience from their training and athletes. With swimmers, THEY are one of the most common groups that have suffered from anxiety throughout their sport. Looking at the study done by Sean Cia, THAT focused on techniques that can help swimmers worth through their anxiety. They used different methods to help work through their anxiety, the methods were, Tia chi, a calming atmosphere, and a lesson where athletes received what they learned before. The student athletes did this over the courses of 8 weeks, the groups that practice tai chi have a lower level of anxiety and depression.
However it is noted that two weeks after the courses were completed, swimmers’ anxiety went back to the same level before the study had happened. According to Sean Cia’s conclusion, “the main reason that the short-tenor practice of relaxation exercises did not produce significant differences in the participants’ anxiety and depression levels compared to the self defense exercise”. Out of all the methods, tai chi was able to help out the athletes. Without the structure of the courses, athletes were unable to keep the anxiety levels low. It is clear to see that anxiety does not affect everyone one person the same. Which sometimes make it hard to identify if someone is struggling with anxiety because it looks different in each athlete. When it comes to swimmers it can affect their motivation to train and continue their school work.
This different study has shown how anxiety affects a student athlete, especially in a swimmer. Two of the studies had to do with imagery work to help lower a person’s anxiety. Where another looks at how stress can affect a swimmer’s outcome in their season. [What] this all has in common is that they helped lower a swimmer’s anxiety. Swimmers are one of the high groups of athletes to experience anxiety that has been shown by the examples. There are methods that are used to cope with anxiety, but it will always have an influence on a swimmer. As a swimmer, there is a truth behind how it affects a person’s performance. There have been times where the anxiety of the idea of swimming has brought me to the point where the idea of swimming turned from a safe place, to a place of pain. Anxiety and depression are not things that should be overlooked by coaches or athletic trainers; they are things that need to be addressed and talked about.
Cia, S. (2000). Physical exercise and mental health: A content integrated approach in coping with college students’ anxiety and depression. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/233005480?fromopenview=true&pq-origsite=gscholar
Page, S. J. (1999). The Effects of imaginary on Female College Swimmer’s Perceptions of Anxiety. Retrieved from https://web-a-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.rowan.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=c4ad7709-1034-4531-92a9-a2bc6d2cd265%40sdc-v-sessmgr01
Stoa, R., Fogaça, J., & Johnsen, L. (2020). Feel the Pressure: Stress and Intrinsic Motivation in Collegiate Swimmers. Retrieved 2021, from http://csri-jiia.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/RA_2020_13.pdf