“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
WRONG. Words do hurt. They hurt a lot.
Looking back on 2021, women athletes made huge statements. In an unprecedented move for her field, Simone Biles courageously prioritized her mental health. In their first showing in the Women’s College World Series, the James Madison University softball team made history with their surprising upset of Oklahoma, the favorite to win. Candace Parker led the Chicago Sky to a WNBA championship. Becky Hammon became the Las Vegas Aces’ Head Coach. All around, women have been KILLING the game.
Even with all of these accomplishments and strides, women athletes are still not being taken seriously in regards to mental and verbal abuse.
Playing sports is a commitment. It’s a lifestyle. It’s the dedication of your mind, body, and soul to a particular sport. This commitment isn’t just confined to the length of the game, but it’s also during those practices and training and weightlifting sessions. It’s truly a sacrifice to play sports.
And it’s REALLY a sacrifice for women to play sports. Especially now with advanced media and broadcasting services, women are constantly being compared to male athletes. They’re not respected for the way they play their respective sports, and they are constantly ridiculed by people for “not being as entertaining as the men.” It’s truly sad.
But what may be even more sad is that they’re not only being ridiculed by the outside world, but they are also being scorned by their own coaches– the people who are supposed to guide them, cultivate their talents, and grow their passion for the game.
Former Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) softball players spoke out about suffering from verbal and mental abuse from two of the coaches on the staff. These two athletes recall being shamed about their physical appearance, their athletic performance, and even their personal lives. The players said they even reached out to the University’s President to ultimately be told it’ll be an investigation for which nothing was done. But after the news broke the head coach retired from coaching softball; nonetheless, he remains an integral part of the MVSU athletic department by continuing as the Associate Athletic Director.
It is appalling that this is not only occurring on the high-school and collegiate level, but it’s also occurring at the professional level as well.
Members of the Chicago Red Stars, a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team, have been speaking out about verbal and emotional abuse for years. It seems like only now are these allegations being somewhat taken seriously.
It’s truly heartbreaking that these women athletes were not given a safe space to be able to share their stories and voice their feelings while being confident that something would be done about it. They’ve only gotten a half-hearted “we support you, and we’re looking into it.” But yet and still, they’re expected to go all out on the field/court/etc. and give their all for a team and organization that doesn’t even prioritize their mental health and safety.
This must change.
Hopefully in 2022, with athletes like Simone Biles paving the way for mental health to be taken seriously, true change will be made to value more than just the physical health of athletes.
It’s about time.