The psychological health of the high performance sport community is critical to the immediate and long term success of athletes, coaches and staff as well as our organizations (such as National and Provincial Sport Organizations, Canadian Sport Institutes and Centres, Olympic and Paralympic Committees and Own the Podium as well as professional sport organizations). It’s also critical to the reduction of any athletes’ (or coach or staff) inability to perform to their full potential due to mental health illness. As well, it reduces the risk of injuries linked to poor psychological health.
Numerous factors play a role in an individual’s psychological make-up and it’s difficult to know whether sport is the cause of a disorder or not. In sport, in particular the high performance sport, there is adversity and challenges that exist as part of the positive development of athletes so they learn to cope, train hard (effectively) and adapt under pressure. So it’s important to work with all athletes to teach skills that allow them to succeed in such an environment. Equally important is being able to identify when an athlete is not bouncing back from stressful experiences and returning to a healthy states of functioning.
It is therefore the responsibility of all those involved in high performance sport to foster a psychologically healthy culture of autonomy, competence and belongingness. In addition to creating and improving upon a safe non-judgmental environment, the power of knowledge is key to the identification and reduction and even elimination of ‘hazards’ that may pose a risk of psychological harm.