The Importance of Acknowledging Mental Health
Patrick McCaffery is the starting forward for the Iowa Hawkeye Men’s Basketball Team. This season he is the 3rd leading scorer on the team, averaging 12.8 points per game. He also happens to be the son of Iowa’s head coach, Fran McCaffery. In the early part of January, Patrick held a press conference to talk about something that most athletes never talk about publicly: mental health. Patrick indicated that he has been struggling with anxiety, which has affected every part of his life, including basketball. These are his words from a press conference:
“I have been battling anxiety for a while, and recently it has peaked, which has inhibited my preparation and performance on the court,” he said. “It’s not fair to myself or teammates to be on the court when I am not myself. The anxiety has affected my sleep, appetite, and stamina, which has resulted in not having the energy level necessary to compete at my full capabilities.
My struggle with anxiety affects every aspect of my well-being and makes it incredibly difficult to function normally. This is what I am battling right now. For this reason, I am taking an indefinite leave to address my situation. It might be two games, it may be four games, it may be more, but I will return when I feel like myself.”
Patrick’s coach/father has supported his son’s decision. He said that he is a father first, and a coach second. As a father, he very much appreciated the card he and his son received from all of the coaches and players from Rutgers University. Coach McCaffery said it meant a lot to him and that Rutgers is a class act. “We’re all supposed to hate each other, but that’s not the way that it is. We fight and we’re competitors, but we’re all in this together.”
Joe’s Perspective #1: Mental health is an important factor for everyone, including athletes. Just because a person steps on a court, field or mat, doesn’t make them invincible. We all struggle and we all have issues. Sometimes those issues become too much. Sometimes we just need to take care of ourselves first and put sports second or third. It might seem like the world is weighing on your shoulders, but 99% of coaches, administrators and parents care more about your health than winning a game. So, you should feel comfortable talking to someone about your own mental health, particularly if it all becomes too much.
Joe’s Perspective #2: When you see individuals struggling with their mental health, do your best to support them. Let them know that you understand and that you care. This is helpful beyond measure. Coach McCaffrey understood this, which is why he publicly thanked Rutgers for their act of kindness. You have the same power to positively influence someone who is struggling.
Your Turn: What lessons do you take from this story?