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  • Writer's pictureJayden Racca

Mental health in sports: a shifting narrative

As a result of the increased pressure athletes battle in society today, recognition and support for mental health is a part of the game that has grown alongside the physical.

There has always been a stigma that exists when it comes to the role mental health plays in sports. According to, only 10% of college athletes with mental health conditions seek help.

The lack of athletes reaching out for help can stem from the ideas that have been engraved through generations of having to be “tough.”

Former athlete Steven Racca, 56, said, “Thinking back to when I was young, it was either, ‘that kid’s a hothead’ or ‘that kid’s soft.’ There was more labeling than anything. Coaches had the perspective of ‘my way or the highway.’ There was very little support.”

This thought process of degrading an athlete solely based on their emotions is one that has caused issues for many.

Cortland State football player Shane Mallory claimed, “I find myself playing not to mess up instead of playing freely. I always have that in the back of my mind instead of playing the way I know and the way I’m comfortable with. My whole day is centered around football here at school, so it ends up being in my head non-stop.”

As a society, there appears to be a wave of openness and support that is beginning to take the sports community by storm. Through professional athletes such as Kevin Love, Simone Biles, and Demar Derozan speaking out it has helped pave the way for the current generation of athletes who are having similar experiences.

Mount Saint Mary College basketball player Chris Yearwood said, “I would be lying if I said I don’t feel pressure in my sport and as a student-athlete. Having to perform both on the floor and in the classroom can be stressful. But I am lucky to have coaches and staff here that let us know that we can always talk to them about our mental health.”

Even though Yearwood is offered the resources at his college to speak out, there are many who still do not feel like they have that luxury. Another MSMC student athlete claimed, “I don’t feel like I have the support I need here at school. I would never think of going to my Coach to talk about the stress I’m having with my schoolwork and sport. He would look at me like I have five heads.”

For MSMC students in need of help, counseling services are available in Aquinas 6. To make an appointment, call 845-569-3115, email, or visit the office in person.

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