Pressure to perform

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Meetings and discussions with coaches over time can influence fear or worry within an athlete.

Caity Burke, Social Media Manager

Sports practices are a place for adrenaline, excitement and exhilaration, at least that’s how it should be. As athletes grow, so has the pressure, causing love for sports to diminish. 

At a young age, individuals explore all kinds of athletics until usually one sticks. Love and passion for sports may begin to fade over time. This raises the question: What is causing athletes to leave high school sports? 

Could it be extensive practices? Unaffordable pricing? Too competitive? The recurring theme behind these factors tends to be coaches. They are the ones in charge of the practice schedules, intensity, and team culture. The pressure that has been built both emotionally and physically from a coach onto players becomes severely overwhelming, leading to burnout within athletes. 

Coaches are notorious for pushing athletes too far. The pressure to be the best and fight through the pain often pushes teens to their breaking point. 

Instances like these can be seen anywhere. Former PV football player Cal Butcher stated, “When I was injured, I felt pressure from my coaches to come back to the field as soon as possible. I was worried they would replace me, so I did everything I could to push through the pain and get back to work,” Butcher expressed. 

There have been several instances within school sports where athletes further exacerbated their injuries, in fear of being replaced. Even when the pain is unbearable, athletes still feel pressure to give it their all. 

Public humiliation in front of teammates, comparison of skill within different athletes and refusing a break amomgst players are unbeneficial coaching tactics. These ways of coaching are incredibly damaging to athletes’ mental health. 

Students of PV have recognized this issue. Senior Erin Morley shared, “I have unfortunately seen sports become toxic for my peers, my teammates, and even myself. When coaches begin to let their personal bias affect placement and performance, sports are not fun for anyone,” she said. Coaches’ favoritism is painful and difficult for athletes to face, but taking a stand is frowned upon. No athlete feels strong enough to stand up to their coach and share their feelings anymore.

As glamorous the trophies and medals can feel momentarily rewarding, they often mask the emotional damage inflicted upon an athlete during practices. The pressure, drive, pain and dedication that accompanies a high school sport is extremely grueling for anyone to experience. For a high school team to truly thrive, the coach must prioritize athletes’ health before success.