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 the perfect of the perfect at residence. However for some, that precise expertise pool turns desires into dismay after they arrive on the Farm.
“While you get to Stanford, you might be now not the perfect at something,” former seashore volleyball participant Zeena Khazendar ’23 mentioned. Like for a lot of Stanford athletes, Khazendar’s highschool teammates and coaches repeatedly praised her potential as an athlete, and she or he was all the time a beginning participant.
“For lots of athletes, being top-of-the-line of their sport was part of their id in highschool,” she mentioned. “They lose that title at Stanford.”
Throughout her frosh 12 months, Khanzendar felt that her group was simply competing in opposition to each other. “We have been jealous of one another,” she mentioned. “Despite the fact that a few of my closest mates on the 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 “fully managed” by what her coach considered her, and she or he would catch herself telling white lies to her coaches and mates from residence about how a lot taking part in time she acquired. Slowly, she felt herself shedding her love for seashore 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 kind of love or ardour,” Khazendar mentioned. 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 identical sentiment in regards to the strain she felt coming into Stanford athletics. She spent her previous few weeks of highschool bonding together with her teammates from residence, 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 fast transition took a toll on her mentally and bodily.
“I used to be the slowest particular person on the group.” Rowell mentioned. “I continued to be the slowest particular person on the group for your complete 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 making extra mates on the group and discovering her help system, she was in a position to overcome burnout. Wanting again, she discovered it exhausting 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 strain wasn’t as dangerous.”
Stress performed a serious position within the first half of Khazendar’s and Rowell’s Stanford experiences, however soccer participant James Pogorelc ’24 mentioned that this “sort of comes with the territory.”
Pogorelc mentioned he knew every part was going to maneuver rather a lot faster when he made the transition from highschool to PAC-12 soccer. “Everybody’s going to be rather a lot greater, quicker and stronger,” he mentioned. “So, perhaps it was a little bit little bit of an adjustment then however, total, [it] wasn’t too dangerous.”
Nevertheless, integrating into Stanford past athletics was a unique story for Pogorelc.
“In my expertise, a few of the college students could deal with you otherwise, simply since you’re an athlete,” he mentioned. “[They] might imagine that perhaps you’re not as clever or that you just don’t belong. And I feel it’s attention-grabbing — I do assume a little bit of a label will get positioned on you for being an athlete, particularly sports activities like soccer and basketball.”
Khazendar expressed related emotions and shared that she made an lively effort to combine herself into non-athlete settings comparable to 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 mentioned 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 lessons under me — they actually struggled to have any non-athlete mates,” she mentioned, including that she feels that present athletes don’t be part of non-athletic social spheres on account of concern they’ll be outcasts. “Athletes are simply sort of in a bubble collectively.”
One examine exhibits that athletes at elite faculties usually tend to be socially and culturally remoted from campus, which may include psychological well being drawbacks. This isolation can create circumstances through which athletes are unaware of the psychological well being companies and communities they’ve obtainable to them. Mehak Chopra, scientific assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, pointed on the market are a number of ongoing initiatives at Stanford aimed toward enhancing 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/help them,” Chopra wrote in an announcement to The Every day. “Our try has all the time been to assist present all of the assets wanted by the athletes.” Chopra mentioned 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 strain placed on athletes, Khazendar advised that they should do a greater job selling sports activities psychology and remedy, as she herself tremendously 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 mentioned. “A variety of prime athletes attain that ‘prime’ and so they don’t discover a lot. They simply discover vacancy.”