My name is Patrick Brown. I’m a former D1 athlete and CFL player. My love of sports started in childhood, playing soccer, basketball, football, and track. A talent for football landed me a football scholarship at the University of Kansas.
Sports always provided me with relationships that I really valued. But sports also created challenges. As an African American athlete, I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed on the field and in the classroom. I never wanted to be defined as just a “dumb athlete”.
Back then, coaches, teammates, and even parents expected us to handle pressure differently. You’d hear phrases like “suck it up” or “keep moving.” There weren’t a lot of resources for people back then. Today, athletes face even more pressure. With social media, you can see what other athletes are doing, and you feel a need to be liked instantly.
In my day, we didn’t have access to a lot of resources to cope with stress, pressure, and mental health. We were told to suck it up. But today, colleges provide access to mental health professionals. When athletes don’t have the right resources, they handle pressure negatively by acting out, making bad decisions, or turning to substance use.
If parents, coaches, or teammates are worried about someone, it’s important to have conversations. It doesn’t have to be about sports. It can be about life, school, and the future, but it’s essential to develop real relationships. You can even talk directly about stress, how to deal with it , and provide them with examples of how you deal with stress in your own life.
Balance is important too. When students start to think about championships, scholarships, or playing pro, it’s easy to lose track of other hobbies. Remind them to find other things that make them happy.
A lot of young athletes are struggling with pressure these days. But parents and coaches can be a part of the solution by emphasizing communication. Offering to talk or connecting them with a professional can provide much-needed relief from stress and pressure that athletes face today.