Simone Biles highlights mental issues in young athletes

Local Sports

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Athletes are coming into their specializations at younger ages. As more of them face different types of pressures, it has them dealing with more stressful situations. These types of pressures play a big part in their mental health and have some of them stepping back on a national and international platform.

The most recent athlete dealing with these types of issues is Team USA gymnast, Simone Biles, who withdrew from the team competition at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday. She stated that her decision was due to a lot of different variables and stress.

“To see Simone Biles so publicly state, you know, I needed to take a moment, hopefully, it encourages other people to you know, take a moment and recognize they have to check in with themselves and get the necessary support. And it also reminds people that social support is really truly necessary,” said Morgan Whittaker, licensed Clinical Social Worker for Thriveworks.

While well-known athletes are dealing with these mental pressures, it is also being seen right in our backyard.

Morgan Powell is a softball player from Columbus, Ohio, who traveled to Salem to play in the elite softball camp hosted at Roanoke College. Powell told WFXR News that it is not always easy being a female athlete.

“Being a minority is a really hard part of it. I feel like just have to overcome the fact that yeat you are going to be different, but at the same time it’s not in a bad way,” said Powell.

Powell started her softball career at a young age, hitting the field when she was six. Her mother, Michelle Powell, has been rooting her on since the beginning.

“Oftentimes she’s the only African American on our team period. And then to have an African American pitcher, it was a little difficult for her when she was younger and there were times when she was shunned,” said Michelle Powell.

It’s not just the pressures from the field, but Roanoke College softball coaches told WFXR News that as social media platforms continue to grow and become more popular, so do the pressures female athletes face.

“With social media, it’s just everyone has an opinion and they put their opinion out there as they just try to stir things up and it’s not fun,” said Mike Mitchell, head softball coach for Roanoke College.

A study conducted by Thriveworks found those female athletes competing faced more negative coverage than their male counterparts.

“Being a female athlete in any sport, you know, there’s this stigma, that, you know, we’re not as athletic as guys, we don’t work hard,” said Rachel Sirbaugh, a catcher and shortstop for Roanoke College.

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