Sport is, by nature, a theater of losses. As fans, we see athletes pushing their body and mind to the absolute limit, testing their own limits in the pursuit of greatness. Seeing how an athlete participates in a tournament or the Olympics can be capturing him to the fullest, but he forgets that this is a person who has dedicated his whole life to his sport and has made countless sacrifices to do it. Victories could be celebrated and consecrated in the history of the sport, but it is the losses they experience throughout their career that come to shape their character and play an integral part in the elaboration of their legacy. Too often we forget this about our athletes. Too often we forget that they are human.
Naomi Osaka has reminded us what it’s like to be an athlete, not just the physicality required to compete among the best, but the mental focus and confidence to perform. In an Instagram post, the four-time Grand Slam champion revealed that she would not do any press during the French Open, citing her mental health.
“I have often heard that people have no respect for the mental health of athletes and this sounds very true whenever I see a press conference or participate in it. We often sit there and ask ourselves questions that have been asked several times before or have been asked questions that bring us doubt and I will simply not submit to people who doubt me, ”Osaka wrote in his message.
“I’ve seen many clips of athletes breaking up after a loss in the press room and I know you have it too. I think the whole situation is kicking a person while he’s down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it. “
The tournament, which starts on Sunday, will see Osaka try to win their first French Open. And while its post may clash with some fans and event organizers, now more than ever we need to prioritize mental health. At a time when society speaks openly and honestly about the importance of mental health, why shouldn’t we extend the same principles to athletes?
Osaka shared video clips of female tennis player Venus Williams and former NFL player Marshawn Lynch in an effort to illuminate the turbulent relationship between athletes and the media. Williams did nothing but support Osaka’s decision and commented on the post: “Girl, right. Your life is yours to live! “
Players can receive a fine of up to $ 20,000 for skipping a press conference in a major edition, a ruling that certainly falls into the hands of the media and sees athletes being forced into their questions. In announcing his decision not to participate, Osaka is likely to copy a fine, but said he hopes his fines will be put on a mental health charity. She wrote: “If organizations think they can keep saying,‘ Press or you will be fined ’and they will continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes who are the center of their [corporation], then I just have to laugh “.
With many people around the world suffering from anxiety and the uncertainty that the year has generated as a result of the global pandemic, Osaka’s stance against press conferences is inspiring. Not only does he prioritize his mental health, but he also talks about it, with honesty and great openness, which has been largely devoid of sport. Maybe it’s time we listen to athletes, who show more compassion for their overall health and well-being, and are reminded that, outside of sports, they are human after all.