US Open set in new era for player mental health

Sep 12, 2020; Flushing Meadows, New York, United States; Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates with the championship trophy after her match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus (not shown) in the women’s singles final on Day 13 of the 2020 US Open tennis tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK, Aug.28 (Reuters) – Player mental health takes center stage as the US Open kicks off on Monday, after four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka led the charge for her fellow athletes this year .

The 23-year-old withdrew from Roland Garros after being fined and threatened with deportation for refusing to attend press conferences, which she said had a negative impact on her mental health, and revealed that she had suffered from depression for years.

The incident led Roland Garros organizers to admit that the sport’s governing bodies need to do better, and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) this week announced a player mental health initiative in partnership with Mount Sinai Health. System. Read more

“Sports psychology has always been in the field of ‘how do we optimize on the pitch? “But there are so many reasons athletes are affected after competition,” Shannon O’Neill, PhD, psychologist at Mount Sinai West told Reuters.

“Really promoting a well-rounded, multi-faceted person, not just an athlete … I think that’s really essential in the therapeutic process.”

A broader conversation about mental health in sport has been unfolding since Roland Garros, with four-time Rio Olympic champion Simone Biles withdrawing from several gymnastics events at the Tokyo Games, citing the need to focus on her career. mental health and gain global support.

At Flushing Meadows this week, world number two Aryna Sabalenka told reporters working with a psychologist that she had paid dividends on and off the pitch.

Previously, she considered therapy to have helped her deal with the pressure of Wimbledon, where she reached the semi-final for the best major performance of her career.

“Knowing that I have someone who will help me whenever I need it… that is really help,” she said. “Once at night I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking too much about everything. I just called her and spoke with her… After that I felt a lot better.”

Acting quickly to bring more support to athletes is imperative for sport governing bodies, Bob Dorfman, creative director of Baker Street Advertising, told Reuters, with the problem still on top.

“The mental health of athletes had never really been a major concern until Naomi Osaka bravely made it public, and Simone Biles courageously kept it at the forefront,” he said. “It is admirable that the US Open is proposing initiatives in this regard, but it can only be lip service or temporary.

“The action must be sincere, continuous and well funded. Anything less will ring true.”

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), for its part, has teamed up with seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams in partnership with mental health services company BetterHelp for a $ 2million ‘free therapy giveaway’. dollars.

“We need to create a welcoming and open environment to seek professional mental health therapy,” Williams said.

(This story corrects the second paragraph to clarify that Osaka is 23 (not 25) Clarifies paragraph six to clarify that Biles did not win four gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics)

Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Michael Perry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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