SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A nationwide discussion about athlete’s mental health began, following Simone Biles’s decision to withdraw from the team final competition.
Many have jumped to her defense, saying that the mental health of athletes is just as important as winning medals.
“It makes competitions much much harder if you’re not in the right mental state,” says Ozark gymnast Courtney Woods.
Former collegiate gymnast at the University of Missouri, Brittany Ward, expressed her feeling during Biles’s announcement. “I was very emotional, I was crying watching it because I felt for Simone going through that. In the time being in the competition, I feel like it’s 95% mental, 5% muscle memory,” says Ward.
Dr. Phillip Swope, a clinical psychologist at Burrell Behavioral Health, says that he works with athletes at the professional level.
“Athletes who are professional, Olympic, elite level athletes, their whole identity is so wrapped up in the sport, so I would imagine that giving up this position affected her greatly,” Swope says.
Dr. Swope added that Biles’s decision to open up about seeking therapy has helped many athletes and fans to consider their mental health as well.
Debbie Ward, gymnastics coach at Missouri Valley Gymnastics in Ozark says that Biles’s has set an example she hopes her student can follow, “It got to her. Having to try to be what the world wants her to be. She was expected to bring home the most golds out of all athletes in America. It was so perfect. To see her come out, and when she hadn’t told her teammates yet, and you could tell that she was trying her hardest, to say, it’s not about me, it’s about the team.”