Stop Berating Professional Athletes Online

Stop Berating Professional Athletes Online

It's just so unnecessary.

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Growing up, every middle school maverick who could pick up a baseball wanted to play professionally, myself included. What we failed to realize, however, is that playing a sport that's broadcasted across time zones and countries as your occupation, not only requires unwavering work ethic and determination beyond talent, but also comes with the immediate immersion into the public eye.

In St. Louis, the sports community prides itself on backing teams through torrential seasons or cheering for opposing players when they make star-studded plays. Unfortunately, with the way Jake Allen and Dexter Fowler have been treated by members of the Blues and Cardinals fandoms, it's discouraging.

That's not to say that the majority of St. Louis fans berate or wish ill on these players and that's not to say it doesn't happen in other cities with other players because it most certainly does. But for a city that prides itself on being "Baseball Heaven", we shouldn't be having players speak out after the season about dealing with mental health issues due to the number of people bagging him online. He's been playing baseball his entire life, he knows when he's playing well and when he's not, and he doesn't need to hear it from the people who are supposed to be rooting for him to succeed.

I think we are so quick to judge, and the salaries that these players earn make it easy to, but we have to realize, at the end of the day, that these players are humans too and are cyberbullied to an extent far worse than most people on this planet and just because they've acquired a platform does not make them immune to the pain that words can produce.

Take Jake Allen for example. A former 1st round pick, highly touted goalie prospect who has had multiple seasons as an adequate goalie in the league.

Has he gone through slumps? Absolutely. Most goalies have.

But the way fans treated him during those slumps, blaming him entirely for losses, using him as the scapegoat as to why the team hasn't won a Cup yet, does not help his mental confidence. The deterioration we've seen in his play is a direct result of that and the fact that his statistics in away games are better than his stats at home points directly toward that.

So next time you're watching a game, regardless of the city you live in, what sport it is, or how bad your team is, and you're tempted to tweet or message the player on social media regarding their performance, do yourself a favor, the sports world a favor, and that player who has worked so hard to get where they are a favor, and put the phone down.

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To The Coach That Fueled My Passion

Thank you for everything.
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Everyone always talks about the coach that killed their passion and made them lose their love for the game. I understand that some people aren't cut out for coaching and that their lack of the right skills may have ruined some promising sports careers, but for every awful coach that might tear you down, there is a coach that inspires you and works you into a better player.

SEE ALSO: "To The Coach That Killed My Passion"

This one is for all of them.

To the coach that fueled my passion for the game,

Thank you for having passion for what you do.

Every time you went the extra mile, it paid off. Your enthusiasm and love for the game set the tone for every practice. You were a role model to me and fueled my drive to be the best I could be and helped my love for the game grow stronger than ever.

Thank you for caring about me.

You took me under your wing and helped me improve my talent and grow as a person. You knew that winning games wasn't the only thing that mattered and always paid attention to the team's emotions. You were more than a coach, you were a friend.

Thank you for believing in me.

Coming into your season I might not have had the greatest form or a perfect teamwork mentality, but with every mistake I made you never once tore me down. You cheered me on and built me up. You not only corrected my mistakes but you also made sure to shoot me a smile when praise was due. You didn't let my results go unnoticed and you definitely made all the hard work worth it. Seeing you proud to be a coach made me happy to be on the team.

Thank you for teaching me.

When I made mistakes, you didn't yell or get mad, you gave me constructive criticism and helped me to become a better player. You focused on my strengths and helped me utilize them while also building up my weaknesses and making sure I learned something every practice. You turned me into an all-around great player.

Thank you for being hard on me.

You pushed me to my limits and believed that I could accomplish anything if I set my heart to it. You knew I always need a little extra help when it comes to breaking down the wall of 'I can't do it' and turning my average abilities into something unstoppable.

Thank you for going easy on me also.

You worked me hard, but also knew when to give me a break. Thank you for not expecting too much and for not pushing me to my breaking point. I never felt ashamed when I didn't succeed at something new the first time I attempted it or pressured to meet expectations that were much too high.

Thank you for letting me be a part of the family.

You understand that the sport only requires so much skill, and the rest is made up of heart. Without good team chemistry there's never 100% success. But you brought us all together and molded us into one big, happy family. You made the court feel like home.

And for all of this I can never thank you enough, but I hope you know now just how amazing you are at your job and how much you meant to me.

SEE ALSO: "An Open Letter To The Volleyball Player I Used To Be"

Sincerely,

A Very Grateful and Inspired Player
Cover Image Credit: Sarah Hinderman

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From Student-Athlete to N.A.R.P.: Identity Theft

For a lot of athletes, we tend to feel like the sports we play define us. Learn more about the journey in Part two of the "From Student-Athlete to N.A.R.P." series.

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So you're done playing... now what?

When you abruptly stop playing the sport you've played your whole life, something happens. I like to call this, Identity Theft.

This is something that many athletes, including myself, have experienced. Instead of waking up for conditioning at 6 am, you're waking up 15 minutes before class to get ready. You're no longer looking forward to or dreading practice (me) in the evening. Maybe you find that you're no longer "important" on campus. People aren't looking up to you anymore, and maybe you feel like you've just become a number. Some portion of your self-esteem has disappeared, you don't know where you belong anymore, and all of a sudden it's more difficult to make friends.

For some people, being an athlete is their main characteristic about themselves. Maybe even a personality trait, some may argue. Once you stop doing something you used to do everyday, a self-discovery journey is necessary. It's a journey that's for sure, and not a short one.

It's a marathon, not a sprint.

You may struggle to figure out who you are, all over again. It's comparable to recreating yourself. Some retired athletes will continue to thrive in their sport, even if they aren't playing for their school anymore. Some, like me, will go through the days, weeks, and months, not knowing what to do with themselves, or who they even are anymore (I didn't lift a weight or break a sweat for 6 months straight).

Before you know it, you begin to question yourself.

What am I good at? What am I passionate about now? Am I good at anything besides basketball?

These are the questions I asked myself every single day. Tearing my self-confidence down piece by piece because I didn't have the answers. I haven't always been the most social person, that being said, the friends I made were through sports. Teammates, opponents, fans- these were all friends I didn't need to work for. Not only that, I all of a sudden had all of this free time and had no idea what to do with it. Yeah, I could do homework, but that got boring after a while.

So what happens next? For me, it was depression.

Something that once defined you is no longer a part of your life anymore. The one thing that people thought about when they heard your name, is now nonexistent. The best way to describe life after being an athlete in my opinion is Identity Theft, because it almost feels like you've been robbed of a vital quality of yourself. And what's funny is I never thought it would be this way for me, because I never let basketball define me, yet there I was.

I'm here to say this:

Pick yourself up and remember who you are. Being great at that sport you once played was just one of the qualities of the stellar human being you are. You are more than your sport. You do have a purpose and a place in this world, even if you don't know it yet. This journey will be scary, but you'll discover new things about yourself that you didn't even know existed.

Since completing this self-discovery journey, I have learned that I am not as introverted as I thought I was, or at least used to be. I like art, music, and even writing. Never in a million years did I think I'd be writing articles that would be shown to the public. Helping people and learning about people is something I am now passionate about. I look back at my old self and sometimes can't recognize her because things are so different now, but I am grateful for those chapters in my life because they helped mold the person I am today.

I've learned the best life lessons from playing sports my whole life, and that is what should be taken from that whole experience. Very rarely do you end up playing your sport forever- everyone can't be a professional athlete.

Identity theft is a real issue that occurs in retired athletes. It is important that you, the athlete, understand what is going on, as well as the people around you.

This isn't the end of your life, it's truly just the beginning.

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