WACO, Texas — Many athletes are now talking with trainers and coaches about mental health after Olympic gymnast Simone Biles stepped down from both the team and individual events at the Tokyo Games due to mental health and stress.
“How much do you work on your mental game?,” Sports Psychologist Dr. Richard Trammel asks.
This is one of the first questions Dr. Trammel asks when he talks to athletes about mental health. He explains every athlete needs to focus on the mental game of their sport as much, if not more so, than the physical side.
“Someone around them has told them that they’re not that good,” Dr. Trammel says. “You know, you just don’t have enough skill to do it. Well, that’s it. Then all of a sudden they believe that, and then the mind then just does what they’re afraid of. They just shut down, and there’s the beginning of a mental block.”
This can be said for any sport, as expectations continue to rise for athletes who move from the high school level to college – and potentially to pro athlete status.
Texas Dynasty Gymnastics Coach Alison Anderson says when their athletes experience a mental block, they take it back to step one to get them past whatever is holding them back.
“We go back to the basics,” Anderson says. “So we go back a step, or two steps, or three steps. However many steps we need to go back to for them to gain back that confidence. So like, for example, if it’s a back handspring, we go back to, like, handstands and being upside down.”
Despite this process being very frustrating for some athletes, Anderson says it helps show them that despite how they are feeling, they are still able to do what they love.
“By breaking it down and by being patient, and not pushing them too hard or too fast to get back to where they were, because that’s not important,” Anderson said. “What’s important is that they’re safe and they feel safe, and they feel confident in what they’re doing.”