May is Mental Health Awareness month, and the importance of mental health applies to athletes. In a two month span, five NCAA athletes died by suicide, including JMU softball player Lauren Bernett.
The River View softball team took it upon themselves to highlight the importance of mental health and honor the fallen softball player. The coaches send their players an ESPN video which lead to the discussion of mental health. The players also wore purple hair ribbons during their game to show solidarity.
“We have a lot of athletes that have been through different things,” said Panther head coach Frances Camp. “When we saw that unfortunately, there had been a traumatic event, we wanted to honor JMU. We wanted to talk mental health with our athletes. It just opened up new conversations.”
Athletes have a lot of pressures both in and out of the sport. Panther third baseman and outfielder Anna Cooper says that her busy schedule would be too much with her suppor system. Cooper is also ASB President and participates in FFA.
“I would say mental health affects everyone differently,” said Cooper. “For me, that case of stress comes from being so busy. You come home from a week, and you’re mentally drained. It’s hard to get up the next day and want to do it all over again, but when you have the right coaches and people pushing you, it makes you want to get up. It makes you want to see those people, have those connections.”
Senior pitcher Kaylynn Coates opened up about a hard time when she almost hung up the cleats. Playing softball since she was 3-years old, a bad car accident made her prior team lose faith in her on the diamond.
“I felt like no one had confidence in me,” recalled Coates, “and no one believed in me that I could come back.”
It made her believe her days playing were over, and thus, painted a dark mental health picture until she received the support she needed. With the help of her support with the Panthers, she is back on the mound.
“There’s a reason why you’re here,” said Coates of what kept her going. “Don’t give up.”
Without the right support system, athletes can find it hard to reach out for help, and the Panther softball program wants to spread awareness to the issues many athletes go through
“Once they lace up their cleats, we get to the game,” said assistant coach Jennifer Morris. “Once it’s over, we laugh, we joke, we play.”
The River View softball team upset Cle Elum 10-7 Tuesday, and advance to the District 5 semi-final Friday, May 20th where they will face Warden. If the Panthers win, they will earn a trip to state.
Mental Health Resources:For Athletes:
Mental Health and Athletes – Athletes for Hope
Other Mental Health Resources:
Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741