Sometimes depression in college athletes doesn’t make sense until you stop overlooking the little issues that create the big emptiness
Mind, Body, and Sport. When these three elements are out of sync, depressive symptoms become highly prevalent in collegiate athletes.
To start, I just want to give you a brief reflection of my life before college. I lived in a small town in Maine in a quaint home with a small family, just my mom, dad, and me. My parents are the sole greatest people on this Earth. They have been there through every high and low in my life. We are the three best friends anyone could ever have, and they are the reason I never let my depression get the best of me, they are the reason I am still here today.
The first 18 years of my life were pleasant and blissful. I was a happy person. I was a star athlete in high school, with a great group of friends and an amazing support system. I committed on a full scholarship to Drexel University and I was anxious to start my first semester away from home in the heart of Philadelphia.
It started out rough. I was homesick, I wanted to fit in with the girls on the team, and I wanted to force the college athlete experience to be something that I had pictured in my head when realistically, it wasn’t going to be that at all. Most people believe that collegiate athletes should be nothing but happy. Being on scholarship, having an automatic “in” at college parties and with college professors, most times people wish they were you. But college athletics sometimes isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. Softball was hard to say the least, it wore me out, it made me wonder if it would all be worth it in the end; but I signed up to play division one softball and that was exactly what I was enduring. Being surrounded by the people I was; I did things that I regret, I followed girls that I shouldn’t have, and I got wrapped up in something that was so morally and ethically wrong: trying to ruin someone else’s life to add value to my own.
So yes, for a while I was caught up with that. I grew relationships with people that only wanted my friendship to get me on their ‘side’. I thought it was acceptable but one day I woke up and God guided me to realize that it wasn’t the way to success. So I found a different direction. And in this direction I made great friends, began to like Philly, and bonded more with a coach than I ever have before. And with all that happiness came being rejected from the other 5 or 6 girls on the team that only wanted to be my friend to manipulate me into their plan of getting our coach fired. Those same girls that demeaned me and rejected me for not agreeing with their harsh predicaments got the best of me, leaving me empty hearted and distressed. I tried not to care that they didn’t approve of who I was and tried to become content with the practices, players, and the atmosphere that was being created. With this positive attitude, I was beginning to love softball again.
Then one day, everything changed. It wasn’t just Coach’s life that was temporarily ruined; it was hers, three other coaches, and about ¾ of the team, too. The whole coaching staff was terminated two weeks prior to our season. I distinctly remember sitting in my room that night crying with my friends and teammates, one of whom threw her phone at me to show me the party that the ‘other’ girls had to celebrate the termination of the coaching staff posted all over social media.
I was truly dismayed by the lack of fairness and oversight in this justice. In my honest opinion, girls are being given too much power to determine the fate of coaches that are pouring their heart and soul into a program, and that greatly reflects the higher-powered people involved with Drexel Athletics. The season was decided by 3 current players, inactive players who were on leave, quit, or got kicked off insisting to get what they wanted, which was for the current Coach to be fired. Athletes who are willing to work hard for their spot on the team and their spot in an NCAA tournament reflect the division one athlete persona. In this case, it is now full of expectations of mediocrity and petty athletes that care more about getting drunk than raising a trophy above their head.
People of higher power told me that the reasoning for the coaching staff being terminated was to create a better environment and to cure girls from feeling emotionally unstable, some even with mental disorders because of what they went through. But I am here to speak for myself that it was not resolved. The roles were reversed after that decision was made, and girls like me who never experienced what it was like to feel alone, depressed, and worthless suddenly began to feel that way all because of the decision that was supposedly made to cure all of those feelings. Some people within the athletics system were an outlet for the girls that were feeling this way, it was known and made aware that I along with other girls were unhappy not only with the decision that was made but the new environment it created.
To give you an insight on what my life has been like from that moment forward would be truly unexplainable but I am going to try. I cried when I woke up, I cried in the shower, I cried before bed, I even cried during practice and class. I was diagnosed with depression. I was experiencing for the first time in my life what it was like to wish you were dead more than you wished to wake up the next morning. I lost my motivation to play for the new coach who had no confidence in me, and I lost my love and happiness for everything, which led to losing things and people I wished I hadn’t. Friends and family were always telling me to ‘lighten up’ or how dull I was compared to how I use to be.
People on my team were starting to overcome what had happened but I wasn’t. I never looked forward to practice; it was to the point where I didn’t even know if I wanted to play softball anymore. I could not find happiness in anything I did. The new Coach was immature, discussing scholarship distribution to players on the team and benching girls because “he felt like it”.
One day I realized, that the love of my life was being taken away from me, the one thing I could turn to since I was seven years old was being pried out of my hands, and I wasn’t going to let anyone take that away from me. Softball was the root of my happiness for so many years, and it was being ripped away just as my heart was being ripped out of my chest.
To the new Coach, I thank you for criticizing the incoming freshman that will be coached by you in the fall it helped me realize you said things like that about me as well. I thank you for calling me a bad kid and a bad influence on other people to my face. I also thank you for constantly discussing with players on the team how poorly the previous Coach’s scholarship money was distributed to her players, as though the amounts of money going towards some players didn’t satisfy your fancy. Lastly, I thank you for helping me realize that I will never be satisfied with mediocrity which is what Drexel Softball currently provides and that I NEVER want to play for someone who benches me because he ‘felt like it’. For these reasons, which have greatly impacted my lack of happiness, I made the decision to leave Drexel University, I chose to leave my despair in Philadelphia and go to a school closer to home.
Fast-forward two years, and it is the present. I fell in love with softball again, I found the love of my life, and I was excelling in school leading my psychology department in GPA. Everything seemed to fall into place for me, but I still felt numb. Some days I would wake up and feel sad, and I wasn’t sure why, it didn’t make sense. No matter how impressive or driven a person may seem, you may never know how much they’re struggling inside. I learned through my experiences it is okay to struggle as long as you keep moving forward, and have people beside you to get you through your tough times. Some people mistakenly believe that a person can only be justified in their depression if there’s a cause or reason for them to be depressed but at this point in my life, I cannot justify it. I live a good life, one that I am grateful for every day, but sometimes I get sad, and it doesn’t make sense. Each bad moment I am faced with leads to a better moment, and I take it one step at a time as I always have. Happiness is present, and there is hope that happiness will stay.