‘Now not one of the best’: Stanford athletes mirror on burnout

Athletes recruited to Stanford, one of many nation’s best athletic packages with common NCAA championship wins and a number of other Olympians, are used to being one of the best of one of the best at house. However for some, that actual expertise pool turns a dream into disheartenment after arriving to the Farm.

“Once you get to Stanford, you might be now not one of the best at something,” former seaside volleyball participant Zeena Khazendar ’23 stated. Like for a lot of Stanford athletes, Khazendar’s highschool teammates and coaches recurrently praised her potential as an athlete, and he or she was all the time a beginning participant.

“For lots of athletes, being among the best of their sport was part of their identification in highschool,” she stated. “They lose that title at Stanford.”

Throughout her frosh 12 months, Khanzendar felt that her group was simply competing towards each other. “We have been jealous of one another,” she stated. “Regardless that a few of my closest mates on this planet have been on that group, I discovered myself wishing for his or her failure as a result of I wished to be on the prime.” 

Khazendar recalled her feelings being “utterly managed” by what her coach considered her, and he or she would catch herself telling white lies to her coaches and mates from house about how a lot taking part in time she received. Slowly, she felt herself dropping her love for seaside volleyball amid emotions of failure. 

“Each single class of freshmen that I’d see are available in, I’d simply slowly see them lose any type of love or ardour,” Khazendar stated. She believes that it wasn’t till her group started focusing much less on outcomes and extra on their love for the game that their rankings improved.

Former water poloist Alexis Rowell ’23 shared an analogous sentiment in regards to the stress she felt coming into Stanford athletics. She spent her previous couple of weeks of highschool bonding together with her teammates from house, and only one week later, she discovered herself amongst world-renowned athletes competing in China, after which in a beginning place as a freshman. This speedy transition took a toll on her mentally and bodily. 

“I used to be the slowest individual on the group.” Rowell stated. “I continued to be the slowest individual on the group for your entire 12 months, and like, by, like a reasonably first rate margin. That undoubtedly affected me.”

Rowell recalled that she “misplaced a ton of weight” and “was drained on a regular basis” that 12 months. 

By means of making extra mates on the group and discovering her assist system, she was capable of overcome burnout. Trying again, she discovered it arduous to imagine she “did all these check units and didn’t actually collapse. I virtually did my freshman 12 months, however I might completely [get through] my senior 12 months as a result of I had folks round me — the stress wasn’t as dangerous.” 

Stress performed a serious function within the first half of Khazendar’s and Rowell’s Stanford experiences, however soccer participant James Pogorelc ’24 stated that this “sort of comes with the territory.” 

Pogorelc stated he knew every part was going to maneuver so much faster when he made the transition from highschool to PAC-12 soccer. “Everybody’s going to be so much larger, sooner and stronger,” he stated. “So, possibly it was slightly little bit of an adjustment then however, general, [it] wasn’t too dangerous.” 

Nonetheless, integrating into Stanford past athletics was a special story for Pogorelc. 

“In my expertise, a few of the college students might deal with you otherwise, simply since you’re an athlete,” he stated. “[They] might imagine that possibly you’re not as clever or that you just don’t belong. And I feel it’s fascinating — I do suppose a little bit of a label will get positioned on you for being an athlete, particularly sports activities like soccer and basketball.”

Khazendar expressed comparable emotions and shared that she made an energetic effort to combine herself into non-athlete settings resembling frequent eating halls to diversify her social sphere. “I used to be anticipating [non-athletes] to be like, ‘You’re the worst since you didn’t get in by yourself,’ however I undoubtedly didn’t really feel that.” 

Khazendar stated she had a novel expertise although, as a result of lack of in-person interactions introduced on by the COVID-19 pandemic. “All of the courses under me — they actually struggled to have any non-athlete mates,” she stated, including that she feels that present athletes don’t be part of non-athletic social spheres because of concern they’ll be outcasts. “Athletes are simply sort of in a bubble collectively.”

One research reveals that athletes at elite schools usually tend to be socially and culturally remoted from campus, which might include psychological well being drawbacks. This isolation can create circumstances by which athletes are unaware of the psychological well being companies and communities they’ve accessible to them. Mehak Chopra, medical assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, pointed on the market are a number of ongoing initiatives at Stanford aimed toward bettering athletes’ psychological well being.

“We [are] all the time prepared to develop/study and incorporate suggestions from athletes as to how [we can] higher assist/assist them,” Chopra wrote in a press release to The Each day. “Our try has all the time been to assist present all of the sources wanted by the athletes.” Chopra stated her division might additionally make an effort to host extra consciousness occasions to make athletes conscious of their companies. 

Providing suggestions on what coaches can do to alleviate the stress placed on athletes, Khazendar advised that they should do a greater job selling sports activities psychology and remedy, as she herself vastly benefitted from their service. Khazendar additionally emphasised that there must be extra conversations amongst teammates about shaming and particular person struggles in sports activities. 

“There must be extra dialog about how mentally difficult athletics might be,” Khazendar stated. “Lots of prime athletes attain that ‘prime’ and so they don’t discover a lot. They simply discover vacancy.”