Botswana athletics team coach Justice Dipeba has recommended provision of mental health services in the elite sport.
He says mental health is an important component in athlete’s life, more especially when one goes to top competitions.
A former national team athlete himself, he says when athletes go to compete it is as much about their mental strength, not just they have done in training.
Dipeba further noted that there are several mental health challenges that individual athletes are facing.
“It can start from the social in terms of relationships and go as much as to cultural with regards to how people view some athletes, more especially female athletes,” he notes.
“All these bring not only physical problems but may lead to depression, and this will adversely affect athletes as they cannot perform well under those circumstances.”
“Some athletes are discriminated according to their body structure, this brings in a lot of challenges to their mental health along the way,” added Dipeba.
Dipeba says all these can be overcome by being mentally strong beforehand, as well as working with specialists who will strengthen one, and make sure an athlete understands their ability hence not allowing forces from outside to affect their performance.
“having a psychologist in a team can help one overcome a lot of these mental challenges at all means, as they will equip them with what it takes to be an elite athlete.”
Dipeba emphasized the need for good mental strength in athletes. He said “To maximize performance athletes need to have it, they ought to get help in time. When it gets to elite it is tough to excel when you are not in the right state of mind.”
“At elite level it is mind over the body, this means the body listens to the mind, if you are in a good state of mind, your body will do well,” added Dipeba.
When asked on the negative effects of not being mentally strong in elite athletes, Dipeba opined that their performance will be affected, some will quit sport completely, some become suicidal, adding that the only way to help them is to bring a specialist to come assist them.
He noted that in a book he has featured in, they were looking at mental health in the South Sahara where a lot of study has been done on the topic, putting in to practice our culture expectations, how it will affect them.
Dipeba said: “If they are not happy for sure it will affect their performance, we did also share a couple of scenarios and solutions and ways towards strengthening their mental health.”