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Mental Health: 2021, the year in which “the pandemic and Tokyo 2020” caused the emotions of athletes to be taken into account

“The brain is a muscle and when it is sick it must be treated.” The phrase is from Álex Abrines, a Spanish basketball player who had to leave the NBA in 2019 because of the depression. It happened two years ago, but this 2021 that ends may well be the year in which this issue became part of the sports coverage.

Maybe it was what he did Simone Biles in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 –Renounce competing in most of their tests–, which made everything visible. Perhaps it was the accumulation of a pandemic behind us that made this balloon burst so that what the world of sports lives behind balls, rackets and colorful uniforms is noticed.

“What happened with Simone Biles and all the expectations in her in Tokyo, there we realized the importance of emotional management. This issue has always been worked on, but 2021 was a year in which the pandemic and the Games made it really take more into account, it came to light more “, says Jessica Galdós, coach of athletes such as Ángelo Caro, Nicolás Pacheco, Ariana Orrego and Jovana de la Cruz, Peruvians present at Tokyo 2020.

At the local level, reality also gave us proof of this. Our karatean Alexandra Grande confessed to having suffered from sports depression after not getting a medal in Tokyo and Uruguayan soccer player Felipe Rodríguez, in Mannucci, raised his voice in football after being touched by the suicide of his compatriot ‘Morro’ García.

“I am human, I failed and did not know how to handle my situation well, even though I was with a psychologist”Ale told El Comercio. But he recovered, competed in the Karate World Cup and won the bronze medal, which earned him to qualify for the 2022 World Games. Knowing how to handle these situations are the first step to success.

“Your body does what your mind says”, says the psychologist Luis Gómez, and for this we must work on all aspects of the athlete. “We are whole beings and athletes in general work a lot on the physical part, the technical part and I think the emotional issue was forgotten. It has been good to make it visible because we are beings of emotions and many of them overwhelm us. It is time to realize what those emotions are that I have not been able to handle. There are people who say good or bad emotions, but emotions are emotions. Emotions come to tell you something “Jessica adds.


According to a report from the Ministry of Health last September, in Peru 20% of the population suffers from a mental disorder and of those 6.5 million people, only 1.3 receive care. In addition, there is an average expenditure of $ 4.15 for mental health care for low-income countries such as Peru.

For athletes, this is a necessary investment and at all times, that is why the presence of Jessica Galdós in Tokyo and also in the Junior Pan American Games in Cali, although she was on this trip as a spectator to follow Ángelo Caro. You need to have more tools like these. It is known that the Peruvian Sports Institute (IPD) has three psychologists in this area to which any athlete can go, but it will always be little given the importance of this problem.

“They have been working on the psychological issue for a long time, but I think there is a lack of more people. It would be wonderful if there were more people involved in the emotional well-being of the athlete. The IPD has psychologists, but there is more to do. Many athletes are requesting support on the emotional side. What happens is that not everyone has the means to hire the services of a sports coach. There are brands that help, but many do not have access “Jessica tells us, who attends to athletes as private consultations, since she does not belong to any sports staff of the IPD or the Peruvian Olympic Committee.

“It’s about having a complete team. The coach sees his part, the technical part and the sports coach, the emotional part. Perhaps it is the coach who is nervous and is transmitting that to the athlete. There you also work. It’s good that there are psychologists, the more professionals there are who can support the athlete, it’s great “, adds the national sports coach.

“A little stress can serve as adrenaline for the athlete to achieve their goals, but too much can become disabling,” said Ricardo Montoya, journalist and psychologist. “There is a stress that gives you the drive and excitement to get ahead, like energy. When it overwhelms you and you have negative, repetitive thoughts, fears, it already turns you into negative, in distress and your body begins to psychomatize. What does that mean? Your hands are sweating, your stomach loosens, you can’t focus on your performance and you can’t focus your energy on the here and now, if you aren’t thinking about what will happen if I lose, if it goes wrong “Galdos adds.

And Neymar agrees with him. “I think Qatar 2022 will be my last World Cup. I don’t know if I have the mental strength to deal with football ”, declared the Brazilian star about his future, who despite all his path traveled and the talent he has, knows that the mental part is the one that will define the steps he must follow.

The world has seen a new face of sport and it must be understood there as well.


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