How do Athletes Cope with Stress?
Written by Riya Kapoor, in conversation with Jayson Harrison, prep-ice-hockey player at Lake Forest Academy
While there are numerous benefits to pursuing an athletic career, the stresses and hassles are oftentimes overlooked. Alongside the pressure and tension, the journey to a pro-future can also derive problems in the athlete’s mental health and personal life. Different athletes cope with these problems in a variety of ways.
In an interview, Jayson Harrison ‘21, a prep-ice-hockey player at Lake Forest Academy, explained how he copes with his stress by listening to music and talking through his problems with his friends. This tension comes from the pressure on his future. Harrison elaborated on his plans to continue his hockey career. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to sign with a high level league, no preference, just where the competition is. Then later down the road go division one with a school, ideally one of the big 10’s and eventually make it to the AHL then the NHL,” said Harrison.
As we all know, COVID took a toll on all parts of life this year, but high-school sports in particular were impacted tremendously. When asked what the hardest part of his hockey career was so far, it was no surprise when Harrison went in depth about how the 2020 quarantine effected his ability to play. “The first skate back after quarantine was the first time I had ever contemplated quitting. I was exhausted and the two and a half months off the ice took a toll on my capabilities.” Fortunately, Harrison turned his viewpoints around and acknowledged the fact it was only the first practice back. He continued to push himself and use his support systems, and was able to bounce back. Lamentably, COVID took a further toll on Harrison’s pro-athlete dreams when the energy level was at an all time low during the 2021 hockey season.
“We were extremely unmotivated after the way we played our first game. It was a big self-esteem blow to all of us and we were all exhausted,” stated Harrison. “When you start becoming a serious athlete, nobody ever explains to you the toll it takes on you physically and emotionally.” When asked how he copes, Harrison explained, “I channeled in on myself and started working harder than ever. I was getting on the ice whenever possible and going to the weightroom more than once a day. I also utilized my friends more than anything. Having a steady support system is something that is salient but is many times overlooked.” Maintaining a supportive environment has always been important to Harrison.
During the height of COVID in early 2020, Harrison and his co-founder, Rayla Clemmons, founded a community organization called Skating For Diversity. The organization’s objective is to push for diversity in the hockey community. “We wanted to accentuate the idea of family and community and make it a comfortable, safe place for players of color”, explained Harrison. The other members of the foundation include Romeo Torrain, Dominic Lovoie, Nick V, and Ayo Adeniye. “In the future, we hope to outreach and expand our organization to the bigger public and make it more inclusive. Creating a harboring environment is something that I will always prioritize."
MORE INFORMATION ON SKATING FOR DIVERSITY:
While different athletes cope with their stress in a variety of ways, they are unified by one common goal: success. The hassles can only be overcome by persistence and resilience, which are two of the many key traits athletes must attain to make progress and achieve their goals.