Tag: Coaches

When is Enough Enough? The Costs of Playing Through Injuries

By: Premier Sport Psychology

In the 1996 Olympics gymnast Kerri Strug sprained her ankle on her first vault landing. All she needed to earn a gold medal was a clean vault, which was exactly what she did after spraining her ankle: Strug performed a vault with an injury, landing on one foot. Competing or performing with an injury is common in world of athletics at any level. Strug’s story, as well as many other athletes who have overcome adversity, hold not only a special place in history but also in the eyes of society. The athletes are looked up to as heroes for sacrificing their bodies for the glory of a win. This mentality contributes to the pressure many athletes face to play through an injury at all costs, and negatively contributes to their bodies and mental health. Hiding injuries and/or playing through the pain is not only hurting the injury and prolonging it, but could also lead to more serious problems later on.

From athletes’ perspectives, they are training to control and master their bodies. When injuries occur they may view it as just another part of the body that needs to perform a certain way. An injury may also cause them to view their body as something to fight against. The injury may seem like a form of betrayal because their body is not cooperating with the demands, but in reality the body is telling the host that it needs a break.

Athletes tend to avoid their injuries because they do not want to take time off. For professional athletes, playing through injuries is the norm—their sport is their job, and if they have to take time off, many feel as though they aren’t fulfilling their responsibilities. This, as well as the threat of being replaced, factors in to playing while they are injured. It’s reasonable that they play through injuries; they have everything riding on their athletic abilities. As a result, if the injury is something that won’t end their career, they will risk their health for the reward. However, even though athletes play through the pain very often at this level, they are aware of potential risks. Athletes view those who can accept that they are injured as brave. Former NBA player Alvin Williams stated, “They’re the real courageous ones, because they’re the ones who are going to be able to come back. They’re setting an example that they’re more than an athlete. And, paradoxically, that’s what’s going to make the best athlete, the best organization, the best everything.” Athletes know that playing on an injury is not the best option yet this is not what they are taught or encouraged to do.

In a study of 3,000 athletes, coaches, and parents, 42% of youth athletes said that they have hidden injuries so they could play, which could lead to more serious complications as they grow up. Kate Carr, the president of Safe Kids Worldwide sums it up perfectly, “The awareness we have about injuries and the risk to our children is not matching the behavior that we’re seeing on the field.” Although winning is an important aspect of sports, it should not be something to risk children’s health for. The restriction requiring athletes to be pulled if they have a suspected concussion and the reduction of contact and checking in youth sports are both steps in the right direction for the reduction of injuries as a whole. Now the task is to create an atmosphere where it is the norm to report injuries.

In “Playing through the pain: Psychiatric risks among athletes,” Drs. Samantha O’Connell and Theo C. Manschreck look at the vulnerability in athletes regarding psychiatric health. One of the factors that drives this is how athletes express pain (which for many cases they don’t). Hiding physical injuries could be the gateway into athletes hiding other health issues as well, specifically related to mental health. Athletes may fear that seeking help will make them look weak and threaten their status as an athlete or with their team. This could lead to further problems with their mental health. O’Connell and Manschreck state that playing through pain may be influenced by pressures from coaches, scholarships or parents, but ultimately it has to do with the pressures the athletes puts on themselves to achieve.

When athletes view injury as a weakness both to their identity as an athlete and their performance, this can cause greater health issues regarding injury as well as mental health. Advise your athletes to sit it out if they are in doubt. While sitting out may not be fun for a game or two, it is better than never playing again or having it affect you or your athletes off the field. This view of injury in professional sports may not change soon, but you have the ability to change how you and/or your athletes view injury.

Alexa-Jane Hoidahl

Meet our Newest Mental Skills Coach, Simon Almaer

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Premier Sport Psychology is excited to have Simon Almaer as our newest mental skills coach. Simon will be working with individuals and teams, helping them to achieve their full potential. Below is a quick interview with Simon so you can get to know your potential mental skills coach!

All right, Simon, let’s start with a bit about your background.

Simon: Well, I was born in London, England. Sports were a big part of my life growing up, and my primary sport of choice was cricket. That was, from age 6 to 21, other than my studies, that was my passion. My dad was a high level coach, and so I represented my county (similar to a U.S. state) on regional teams as a youth player, and then when I got to university, I had the opportunity to play first class cricket (akin to the professional level). I went to Oxford to study Chemistry and received both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees before moving to the states in 1991—largely to marry my wife who is from Minnesota.

What has your career looked like since moving to Minnesota?

Simon: I worked in Corporate America for 20+ years for companies like Pillsbury and Cargill and had a wide range of roles during that time. After starting as a scientist I moved into marketing and general management roles working on brands like Häagen Dazs and Pillsbury. During that time I got my MBA from the University of Minnesota. I had a lot of fun experiences working around the globe with various companies.

What made you leave Corporate America for sport psychology?

Simon: I played cricket for my first few years in the states, but after hanging up my cricket bat I focused my sports passion on coaching soccer. I’ve coached youth soccer in the Twin Cities for 15 years and still do. I have a number of different coaching licenses and degrees, and so as I came up on 20 or so years in Corporate America I started to think about how to better fuel my passion for working with young people and athletes to help them reach their full potential. I wanted to pursue a different area of study in a different professional area and so I pursued a sport psychology degree through Mankato State. I am also working on my certification by the professional association AASP (Association for Applied Sport Psychology).

What work are you doing with Premier?

Simon: My emphasis at Premier is working both with individuals and teams on performance enhancement. I’m a mental skills coach—whether its athletes, performers, or people in the business world, my emphasis is helping them get better at what they love doing. I love working with coaches and administrators—people who are charged with developing their athletes. The people who work with the athletes day in and day out deserve time and attention so they can develop their skills and, from being a coach, I believe that can often have a bigger impact on the system of youth sports. I want to be a positive influence in the youth sport climate—I think I have something to share and I have a real passion for it.

Thanks for taking the time to do to this get-to-know-you. To wrap it up, can you give us one fun fact about yourself?

Simon: During my first few years in Corporate America I still played cricket. The highlight was playing on the U.S. National Team against Canada in the 150th year anniversary of that match.

To learn more about Simon, check out his bio or call our office at 952.835.8513.