Naomi Osaka, the highest-paid feminine athlete on the planet, is setting the usual for a brand new technology of athletes as she sparks conversations about psychological well being and racism. Osaka has been recognized for utilizing her platform to publicly converse out in opposition to racism and now she is tackling the stigma athletes face with regards to psychological well being. Osaka has been within the information not too long ago for withdrawing from the French Open on account of psychological well being issues.
When Osaka first introduced she was dropping out of the French Open, she cited her psychological well being as a key think about her choice. Final month, Osaka introduced on her social media accounts that she wouldn’t be taking part within the post-match information conferences required of French Open gamers. The match fined her $15,000 for this choice and threatened extra penalties sooner or later. In a Twitter publish, Osaka defined that talking to a room of journalists triggers her anxiousness and that she has struggled with intervals of melancholy.
Third-year volleyball participant Kiki Widran feels Osaka’s choice to drop out of the French Open is simply another excuse she’s top-of-the-line athletes on the market.
“Naomi Osaka is an unbelievable athlete and position mannequin, particularly along with her skill to grasp her limits as an individual and athlete and to take the area she wants from tennis so as to maintain herself,” Widran mentioned.
Widran additionally respects Osaka’s skill to navigate such a tense profession — a profession that has required her to be within the public eye since her youth. Widran feels Osaka has put girls’s tennis on her again so as to affect the following technology of girls athletes.
“I do know so many younger women look as much as her,” she mentioned. “Being an athlete is about rather more than simply enjoying a sport, it’s about sportsmanship and teamwork and realizing methods to maintain your self so as to proceed being the very best at what you do — Naomi Osaka is a superb instance of those traits.”
Second-year tennis participant Dina Nouaime believes that it will be significant that there are skilled athletes who share their experiences with psychological sickness as a result of elevating consciousness is crucial to ending stigmas round psychological well being. She says that seeing world-renowned athletes open up about their psychological well being may also help open a door to dialogue for aspiring younger athletes.
“It’s so troublesome for athletes to share struggles with their psychological well being as a result of not solely is there such a stigma surrounding discussing psychological well being, nevertheless it’s additional exacerbated when somebody’s continuously on the whole world’s radar,” Nouaime mentioned. “With a view to have discussions about psychological well being develop into normalized, we have to see extra skilled athletes comply with Osaka’s instance. It’ll be troublesome, however as soon as the ball is rolling, extra folks will really feel comfy to share their very own tales in an more and more open neighborhood.”
Third-year softball participant V Dagnino agrees with Nouaime and in addition thinks there must be extra skilled athletes talking out about their very own experiences.
“I do know I felt empowered a pair years in the past when Kevin Love from the Cleveland Cavaliers spoke about his struggles,” Dagnino mentioned. “These tales elevate consciousness and begin a dialog, however change comes all the way down to coaches and sports activities tradition. There must be a cultural change that normalizes struggles with psychological well being and permits for extra athletes to have conversations and get assist.”
Widran additionally highlights the importance of Osaka’s choice as a result of the general public is reminded that athletes have to face up for themselves and their psychological well being.
“As student-athletes, we generally neglect that being an athlete is only one a part of our lives,” she mentioned. “Our aim as student-athletes is to win and to enhance, which doesn’t go away lots of room for taking good care of ourselves mentally. We’re conditioned to make our sport our primary focus, and to not carry issues in our lives onto the court docket. We view speaking about psychological well being as a distraction, which makes it onerous to ever discover areas to take action.”
Skilled athletes are sometimes seen as commodities who exist purely for the leisure of others, which will be a particularly harmful narrative. The general public tends to neglect that the athletes on tv are all human beings. Osaka is normalizing conversations surrounding the prioritization of psychological well being.
“She is opening up an area inside sports activities to acknowledge the significance of taking good care of your self, which has been such a taboo topic up to now,” Widran mentioned.
Having an Asian and Pacific Islander athlete like Osaka set such an unbelievable instance for the following technology of athletes, proving to younger AAPI athletes that they’ll do something they need to do and is giving them the illustration in sports activities that they so desperately want.
As a half-Asian feminine athlete, Nouaime says that to have an AAPI athlete and position mannequin as profitable as Naomi Osaka has been actually inspiring to look at.
“Illustration is so necessary in each discipline for younger folks to look as much as,” she mentioned.
Widran says that regardless of not realizing the following time we’ll see Osaka on the court docket, one factor is for certain: Osaka is blazing new trails in her sport, creating change inside skilled athletics — and it’s wonderful to look at.