FLOWOOD, Miss. (WJTV) — An estimated 32 percent of adolescents have some form of an anxiety disorder.
While being athletic can boost physical and mental health, for some high-school athletes — those who train year-round and or might need an athletic scholarship to afford to go to college — sports can be a key contributor to depression and anxiety.
Over at Hartfield Academy, head baseball coach Chuck Box is looking to combat the staggering statistics with the addition of mental performance coach Dr. Jeremy Fletcher.
“Jeremy is an amazing human being and I think he’s going to bring a lot to our guys,” Chuck said. “His experience with soldiers, first responders, and athletes is going to allow him to bring a lot to the table.”
“How do we proactively address these issues” said Fletcher. “So , I think my role will be to sort of sense what those things are going to be and help to proactively build skills to the athletes to help them navigate these times.”
Fletcher, an assistant physical therapy professor at the University of South Alabama, is a former baseball player as well. He played under Box while at Itawamba Community College. He believes his own testimony will be beneficial the Hawks.
“This is a difficult topic to talk about with youth athletes,” Fletcher said. “Mental health still has a stigma in certain areas, so it’s going to be challenging. Hopefully with building that relationship and also the story I have — I’ve had to overcome some personal mental health issues as well. So, these skills helped me navigate these as well.”
Box said the inclusion of mental performance to his program is like adding another tool for his players to use, not just now, but for the rest of their lives.
“There are a lot of things coming at them,” Box said. “I think some of the older school coaches’ mentality was ‘suck it up’ and ‘you got to get tougher’ and I still believe in a little bit of that. But, I also think there’s a need to help our guys process things on a daily basis and ultimately we want them to be great human beings. We hope that it helps them when they’re at the plate in the bottom of the 7th, 2 outs, and the winning run on base. We want them to be centered, mindful, breathe and trust their ability. But, I think it’s going to pay off for them when they are fathers and husbands and dealing with the different things they have to deal with in life.”