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Black Women are Changing the Game for Athletes

Simone Biles is rewriting history about what’s possible.

Biles is a great gymnast and is considered the greatest of all-time (GOAT). This is due to her incredible strength and abilities. Biles is no stranger to surprising people. She has performed the Yurchenko double Pike on the vault during competition, becoming the only female gymnast to achieve this feat.

She shocked the world when she withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics team’s final last month, citing mental illness struggles.

Biles was praised by many but others were quick to criticize her inability to perform. Biles remained steadfast through it all.

She told reporters in Tokyo that “at the end of the night, we’re all human.”

Biles’s actions accelerated a mental health revolution in athletes, especially Black women athletes.

Naomi Osaka stepped back from the French Open, Wimbledon earlier in the year because of anxiety about mandatory media interviews and the need for some personal time. Simone Manuel, a swimmer, opened up about her experience with overtraining syndrome. She also shared some of her anxiety and depression symptoms. Sha’Carri Richardson, track star, spoke out about her grief after her mother’s passing. She said that it played a part in her disqualification from the Olympic Trials. After a positive test for THC (the active chemical in cannabis), she was disqualified. Elite athletes are not immune to mental health issues. According to some 2016 research, 34% of elite athletes are suffering from anxiety or depression. Another 19% may be experiencing substance abuse. Never before has an athlete been so open about their vulnerabilities.

They are also advocating for their rights and requesting better conditions. Many are paying attention, including Healthline’s sister company, Psych Central with its recent article about this topic.

Backlash quickly erupted when Naomi Osaka decided to reject media interviews at the French Open earlier this year, proving just how rare her position was.

Officials threatened her with suspension and fined them $15,000. Spectators accused her simply of not wanting to do her job and even Billie Jean King was against her decision to step back.

We as a culture are not used to athletes resisting the constant pressure to be there. We’re not used to Black women leading that charge. This is a huge issue that has far-reaching implications.

It’s vital culturally. Leeja Carter, Ph.D. It is inspiring to see Black women and women of color step outside of the cultural conditions created by white dominance. We are constantly told by society and the media that Black women are only meant to work with our bodies. We’re so much more than that.

Huge pressure and increasing expectations

Star athletes are often viewed as fortunate. Star athletes are often talented individuals who can use their talents to gain fame and millions.

We love them when they wow us. Their job is to amaze us. However, this can cause a disconnect with reality. Kate Miller, LMHC counsels Columbia University college athletes.

Miller stated that “at the end of the day they’re human beings with exceptional talent.” They are still human beings. That part is lost.”

Our expectations keep on growing. Global sports is a $388 million industry. Professional athletes are under immense pressure to perform or be replaced.

“The dynamics have changed. “We’re asking more from athletes,” stated Margaret Ottley, Ph.D., a sports psychologist who counseled athletes at four Olympic Games. You won a Gold medal at a global competition in one year. Now we expect you do it again and again. We expect higher goals. We are looking for stronger and more efficient goals.”

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