Ohio State University &
Team USA Olympic Athlete

Adelaide Aquilla smiles at the camera while in a shot put pose.

It’s crucial to speak to teammates, coaches, or trained professionals to learn how to deal with stress.

Adelaide Aquilla is in position to deliver a shot put attempt.

I started playing sports in 5th grade. In my family, playing some form of sports was somewhat of a requirement. I played basketball, soccer, cross-country, volleyball, and finally got to track.

My career has progressed further than I could’ve imagined. I was eventually given the chance of a lifetime to compete for Ohio State in track, where I was a five- time Big Ten champion and four-time national champion and record holder for the outdoor national record in shot put.

As a young athlete, I felt a lot of pressure during high school, especially when it came to playing at the next level. There was pressure to play at a Division One school. If I couldn’t get a scholarship, I didn’t know how I would pay for college, and if I did, that came with an enormous amount of financial responsibility.

Student-athletes today face the pressure of performing on the field, experiencing stress around scholarships, and facing body image issues in the case of female athletes. I often wished mental health was more talked about. At the time, I felt student-athletes were expected to handle the pressures and stresses independently. I had pushed off dealing with it and avoided talking about it.

Luckily, in the last five or six years, discussions around mental health have become more common and out in the open. There are more resources available to young athletes that they can access. In addition, it’s crucial to speak to teammates, coaches, or trained professionals to learn how to deal with stress.

Talking about these things with friends, coaches, teammates, and parents can be scary but beneficial. Allowing young athletes to express their emotions is important. Sports play a significant role in the development of young kids, so giving them a chance to express their feelings like frustration, sadness, or anger. Hear them out; value those emotions. And for all those student-athletes reading this, I encourage you to remember to have fun with sports. Through all the pressure, you have to remember that the game is life or death. Enjoy those moments so you don’t look back, wishing you had more fun.