Coaching mom talks mental health for young athletes

Webb’s Shelly Collier coached four daughters in the sport of basketball
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 9:19 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2021 at 11:00 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - - Going for the Gold! Sounds like fun. It also sounds a lot easier than it is. We often see the hard work, the physical effort that athletes put forth. What’s hidden though is the mental anguish they’re going through.

”For example all the social media out there and they’re constantly comparing themselves to other kids who are getting this offer or getting that offer. It’s a lot of pressure on the kids,” says Shelly Collier, a longtime and successful state championship basketball coach at Webb school here in Knoxville.

She’s also a Mom of four daughters and says she finds herself balancing the desire to push and when to pull back, ”I’ve been blessed to be a coach for a number of years and a mom that’s had four kids who played for her. It’s so important, that relationship piece, to know you’re players and that’s the challenge of the coach to know each player individually.I would like to think I’ve grown as a coach because I am a mom.”

Psychologists will tell you there are three type’s of stress athletes go through. Competitive stress, organizational stress or more simply, the organization within the environment the athlete is operating. And then there’s the personal stress or the pressure an athlete puts on themselves. About that last one Collier adds, ”We’ve got to listen and understand that it’s more mental than physical. We’ve gotta wake up and listen to what these kids are going through.”

Bringing this issue to the forefront of late, tennis star Naomi Osaka,who’s been a voice for younger athletes telling them, it’s OK not to be OK. And this week, Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles withdrew from Olympic competition citingmental fatigue. To those who say she should just soldier through, our coaching Mom says, ”No one can know what someone feels until they’re walking in their shoes I would just hope that people would not be so critical and quick to judge that they would have an open heart and an open mind with what’s going on with mental health and knowing that people do struggle.”

Collier, who was known as Shelly Sexton when she played for Pat Summit says the legendary coach would have been insightful and sympathetic to a situation which calls for us all to listen to each other.

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