Athletes feeling the pressure

Athletes feeling the pressure

By: Tara Holmes


Student athletes. Known by their peers, fellow students, and families as legends and heroes; more than just mere people. They are the ones we hold in high regard and put on a pedestal, in the eyes of so many they are untouchable.

But are they really? Is the fact that they are athletes enough to make them not have the same feelings and sensitivities as everyone else?

When we think of athletes we automatically think of the basics; strong, powerful, talented, gifted. Do they have the same insecurities as the teenage girl walking down the street?

The answer is simple, yes. Despite the fact that athletes are placed in a different realm as other people and students, most of them deal with the same body issues as the rest of the world, maybe even more.

Being in the spotlight and known by students and teachers is no east feat, doubling the pressure that’s put on them to be in their best shape and on their A-game at all times.

Former high school athlete and Chattanooga State nursing student, Caitlyn Whitehead, says that growing up she felt like there was a black cloud of pressure hanging over her head constantly. “I always felt like the fat girl because I was so muscular and I have pretty much been the same size since the 8th grade. Being an athlete didn’t even feel right to me because no matter how hard I pushed myself I could never get under 140 lbs.”

When asked where the pressure was coming from Whitehead simply said, herself. “It was just a mindset at that age to want to fit in with everyone else.”

Caitlyn isn’t the only student athlete who has struggle with body image issues and, “feeling the squeeze,” to fit in to a certain mold.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association athletes all over the world are facing this same issue. Some of the risk factors for athletes with eating disorders include; sports that emphasize appearance-gymnastics, bodybuilding, diving, sports that focus on individuals instead of a whole team, endurance sports, training for a sport since childhood, low self esteem, and coaches who are concerned about success rather than the personal growth.

Athletes who play a sport that is judged have a 13 percent chance of getting an eating disorder as opposed to the 3 percent for sports that aren’t judged.

However, there are some athletes who didn’t have this added strain on themselves.

Chattanooga State baseball player, Hunter Parker, says that growing up playing sports lessened the pressure he put on his outward appearance by giving him something else, something positive to focus on. “I think I put more pressure on myself to perform better than to look better. In my earlier years I was a little concerned with looks and as I’ve grown up and continued to play sports, the looks are less of a concern to me as where performance is more of a concern.”

So as for as athletes go, what causes the pressure to have their bodies look a specific way? Does the burden stem from themselves, coaches, peers, the media, or somewhere else? What other factors play a role in causing athletes to think differently about their bodies?