Athlete Mental Health


Rosie Garcia

Photo Taken By: Mia Zavala


It is evident that participating in high school sports brings certain benefits, such as a strong connection with the team, scholarship opportunities, lettering, friends, and so much more. It allows students to play the sport they fell in love with, while still being high school students. Although these benefits are great, there is a darker side to the reality of a student-athlete that people don’t talk about. 




There’s no doubt athletes have high standards and expectations for themselves. This is mainly caused by how competitive these sports can be and the knowledge of the good work ethic they have accumulated over the years. It is not easy trying to live up to these standards, especially with the many things going on at school. The idea that nothing is enough can lead to false expectations and discourage motivation in several ways. In an interview with Horizon High School’s Girl Basketball, Volleyball, and Cheer teams, many of them expressed their feelings towards this issue. 

  •  As a student athlete how high are your expectations within you as a player and you as an academic student? Are you an overachiever? 


 “My expectations are extremely high for myself. I have always been pushed by my parents to be great and lead people so I strive for excellence in both aspects. I would say I’m an overachiever because I am always trying to work harder than others” – Maiya Swanson, (11th) Varsity Volleyball


“For myself I have very high standards in and outside of the classroom. It’s very important to me to not be “that person” on the team that hold everyone back because I can’t keep my grades up. Overall it has made me an overachiever but it’s lead to great outcomes.” – Elizabeth Walters (12th), Varsity Cheer 


“ I do have high standards for myself. Not just for high school sports but even for club I’m expected to have an average of 3.5 or above.” – Norah Little (10th), Varsity Basketball


Coaches and Teammates


The athlete environment can also affect a person’s mental health. Most coaches expect students to put their sports first, always show up to practice no matter the excuse, and work their hardest for hours on end everyday after school. Although this is great work ethic and will lead athletes to success, it has still impacted the mental health of many people. In a students personal life, there are many moments where we need time for school or need a “mental health” check. With this being said, being 110% dedicated to the sport is a hard thing to achieve, especially in high school. High School teams can also be very toxic towards each other. Sports are very competitive and the pressure each athlete puts on each other can lead to arguing, not getting along, or blaming others for small mistakes we make. It can cause a huge stress level on every teammate and can bring a non-enjoyable time to the team. 


  • How have coaches and teammates impacted you? have they been good or bad experiences, Why? 


 “ Some coaches have tried to put me down and tell me that I’m too short to play volleyball. This made me doubt my playing. But after, I use it as motivation to be better and prove them wrong. When teammates are better than me I also use this as motivation. I am extremely competitive which makes me want to be better than my teammates. “ – Maiya Swanson (11th), Varsity Volleyball


 “Through my four years of being an athlete at hhs I’ve seen both sides of impact. To this day I keep in touch with the coaches who have stepped away from the cheer program and look up to them. I also have been blessed with amazing relationships with older peers that I’ve learned from greatly and learn from their personal mistakes. My golf coach is also an amazing and warm personality who I know will always be there for me. However, recently I’ve experienced some bad coaches and some bad teammates but it’s helped me reflect and realize how I value myself and my own hard work and dedication to my sport.” – Elizabeth Walters (12th), Varsity Cheer 


“I have had both positive and negative coaching atmospheres. and I will say it affects you deeply, because when a coach doesn’t believe in you and they are on your back and always yelling at you you feel like you can’t mess up or grow.” – Norah Little (10th), Varsity Basketball


Parents x Pressure 


Parents can often bring a huge amount of pressure on their teenagers which causes students to feel as if they’re never enough. The constant pressure that they have to be better than any other athlete can get extremely overwhelming and tiring. In an interview conducted to student athletes at Horizon, many expressed that they want to make their parents proud and that this sort of mindset causes them to be too caught up in their own self doubts and insecurities. 


  • Do you feel any sort of pressure from parents or even yourself as an athlete and student? 


“Yes, I feel I have constant pressure as a student athlete because I want to be great in school and exceed in this aspect but at the same time I want to be great in my sport. My expectations are so high that at times I’m become really stressed. My parents also expect so much out of me which puts this small pressure on me to be great. I want to always make them proud.” – Maiya Swanson (11th), Varsity Volleyball


 “My parents definitely put a standard onto getting good grades and also trying my hardest in my sports. I think that they truly expect a lot of me, but it’s pushed me to be my best.” – Elizabeth Walters (12th), Varsity Cheer 


“My mom was a D1 athlete so with that it comes a lot of high standards and also her being a 4.0 student all the way through college. I will say it’s a huge struggle and if you aren’t right, mentally, I can kick you down really hard.” – Norah Little (10th), Varsity Basketball 


Heavy Workload  

Having practice and games every day on top of the rigorous and long homework teachers also increase stress levels for students. It is extremely hard to keep up with school work at this caliber especially when we already spend so much of the day at school. When students try their best to keep up they often spend long nights doing their assignments and lack sleep because of this. This often creates burnouts and loss of motivation for many student-athletes. 


  • How hard is it to keep up with schoolwork and all your classes?


 “ I feel like it is extremely difficult keeping a good balance between school work and sports just because of my high standards. I want to be great in both.” – Maiya Swanson, (11th) Varsity Volleyball


“Depending on my schedule it sometimes is difficult. I would say it’s more difficult during golf season since I’m usually gone a few times a week so on top of makeup work it can be a lot but it’s worth it to be able to go have fun and enjoy the sports I love.” – Elizabeth Walters (12th), Varsity Cheer 


“ Because I’m doing school for eight hours a day and sports to up to five hours a day finding time to do my homework is hard that’s why I work in every off. Before games even after games. sometimes this means skipping team dinner and prioritizing test over homework.” – Norah Little (10th), Varsity Basketball


Mental Health Awareness 


In conclusion, it is important that we understand that being an athlete and a student at Horizon can be very stressful and lead to mental health issues. Recognizing these issues and allowing students to still feel a sense of freedom can benefit them in a variety of ways.