Opening up as an athlete.

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Progress is a slow and painful road.

There is an interesting, almost unspoken mentality that surrounds athletes. For a bit of context, the headspace of a competitor is something that is truly unique. The pure focus and raw talent that an individual can bring to the field, court, or arena is staggering to say the least. But that competitive headspace, that ‘winning mentality’ if you will, comes from one’s own desire to do well, as well as one’s own desire to not let down your team.

Now, granted, this is nothing new. I mean, duh, right? Of course competitive athletes have a winning mentality that’s what makes them competitive athletes, but there’s more that goes on there then I think people realize. What happens when something comes above that winning mentality? What happens when the mental aspect of your game becomes affected? Well, even now in 2020, feels like something that we’re just looking into.

The reason for this discussion, now especially, is based around a recent incident that took place in the NFL. Fox Sports personality, Skip Bayless, made some rather disheartening comments with regards to current quarterback (QB) Dak Prescott’s mental health. Bayless’s comments were based around how Prescott’s talking about his depression was a sign of weakness in the game of football.

“He’s the quarterback of America’s team [The Dallas Cowboys],” Bayless said. “The sport that he plays is dog-eat-dog. It is no compassion, no quarter given on the football field. If you reveal publicly any little weakness, it can affect your team’s ability to believe in you in the toughest spot.”

These comments were met with criticism by many individuals, some of which went to Twitter to express their disbelief at what Bayless had said.

Fox did make a statement following Bayless’s comments, revealing that there was no support from the organization with regards to what was said.

“At FOX Sports, we are proud of Dak Prescott for publicly revealing his struggle with depression and mental health,” said the network. “No matter the cause of the struggles, FOX Sports believes Dak showed tremendous courage which is evident in both his leadership on the Dallas Cowboys and in his character off the field. We do not agree with Skip Bayless’ opinion on Undisputed this morning. We have addressed the significance of this matter with Skip and how his insensitive comments were received by people internally at Fox Sports and our audience.”

Prescott also responded to Bayless’s comments, stating that leaders who don’t open up to their team or in general are “fake” and that “being a leader is about being genuine and being real.”

Moving away from Prescott and Bayless, even now in 2020, the idea of opening up is something we still can’t seem to grasp. Talking about mental health and the effect it can have on people. And I’m willing to wager that there is no outlet for players when it comes to trying to discuss depression. Firstly, because if your mind is not in the game, then you’re most likely going to be pulled out of the game. And secondly, those who do speak up are continually labelled as weak individuals.   

The winning mentality is something that, with regards to those who battle depression or the like in sports, comes above all else. Recently, we’ve seen more of a course-correction when it comes to sports with a more open dialogue, but it’s still not there yet. Not nearly as there as people would like.

One can only hope that Prescott sharing his mental state will allow other athletes, whether professional or not, to not feel shame or not be considered weak when discussing their mental health. Comments like Bayless’s are outdated and need to be addressed in order to continue to make real progress.

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