MINNEAPOLIS - Mental health has been a hot topic among college and professional athletes over the last 18 months, between the COVID-19 pandemic and the fight for social justice after the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day in 2020.
Early this week, it came to the forefront again with the world watching as the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team tried for gold at the Olympics in Tokyo. The Americans are led by Simone Biles, arguably the greatest female gymnast of all time.
Things weren’t going right for her on the vault, and she didn’t feel right. Under the bright lights on the world’s biggest stage, she couldn’t perform at the level she wanted or expected of herself. She pulled out of the team competition, and the Americans took home a silver medal.
The world reacted on social media, with mixed reviews. Some said she showed courage to recognize the problem, and tell her teammates she couldn’t go. Others said she needed to be tough, represent her country and she let her team down.
Biles has since also withdrawn from the individual all-around competition for mental health reasons. Earlier this summer, Naomi Osaka withdrew from Wimbledon to address mental health concerns.
The reality is only athletes know what that moment is like. At Minnesota Vikings training camp on Wednesday, Dalvin Cook was asked about Biles and mental health. Cook has dealt with injuries throughout his NFL career, and lost his father last season.
Cook said he’s praying for Biles, and hopes she finds her form again. He also said it’s impossible to perform physically if your mind isn’t right.
"I think there would be a sense of disappointment and not letting people down. I think mental health is one of the things that goes unnoticed for a majority of athletes. For her to do that, I think it was great for her to take a step back and just focus on herself for once. I think it goes unnoticed because we try to please a lot of people. We’ve got to go out here on Sunday and work hard, take care of our body, do a lot of things. That can kind of go unnoticed, and if you’re not healthy in your mind, your body is not going to compete at a high level," Cook said. "I think that’s what she was getting at, she’s not in the right state of mind, so I’m not going to put myself out there to get hurt or do anything like that. She needs to take as much time as she can and get where she needs to be at. I take that very serious, I talk to my family members a lot, my brothers and sisters about mental health and checking up on them, stuff like that. People can try to hide things a lot and try to be bigger than the moment, bigger than a lot of things and not focusing on yourself a lot of times. I’m praying for her and I hope she gets back to being who she is."
Well said from one of the top running backs in the NFL.