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Exploring Student-Athletes’ Mental Health at West Orange High School

WOHS Sports Media

The sports culture is huge at West Orange High School. Programs such as Soccer, Football, Cross Country, Track and Field, and Cheerleading, have made a significant impact on the performance of our athletes, both on and off the field, throughout their seasons. 

According to research, athletes are shown to have more negative states than their non-athletic peers. Most athletes are looking for a D1 scholarship and that comes with dedication and hard work. But when you aren’t playing to your best ability, you feel afraid or nervous to be honest with your coaches about your depression and anxiety. According to NCBI, 58 to 91 percent of high school athletes suffer from stress due to their sport. 

So I interviewed two outstanding athletes at WOHS to confirm these findings and to get their perspectives on mental health. These athletes dedicated their time and effort to both school and their sport.

Arthur Rosu: Senior Captiain of the Boys’ Soccer team

The first athlete I interviewed is senior Captain of the Boys’ Soccer team, Arthur Rosu. He has played on varsity since freshman year as a center back. Rosu opened up about the impacts of being an athlete: “I dealt with self-doubt before in the way of just knowing if I am going against a good opponent or just within myself that I am not having the best day, I feel like something else is going to go worse and it would just drag on with everything else throughout the day.” 

When Rosu plays big teams, he feels the tension but tries to remind himself it is nothing to stress about. However, the desire to follow through with what his brothers’ left behind for the boys’ soccer program added to his self-doubt. 

Arthur’s older brother, Ari Rosu, graduated in the class of ’22, while his eldest brother, Andre Rosu, graduated in the class of ’17. When Arthur first started playing on the soccer team freshman year, he knew “I had to start off strong…” since “both of my brothers had a standard because we all played the same position too…” But over the years, Rosu’s goals developed, “…as of right now, I am just trying to do anything I can to help the team” showing his growth and resilience. 

As Rosu mentioned, although his time as an athlete is impacted by self-doubt, it also would affect his day-to-day. “I worked at a restaurant. If I work a service job I am going to have to fake an attitude to give off a good image. Even if I am not having a good day I know I have to fake it to make it type of thing just to set a good example for everyone.” Thus, Rosu had to learn how to balance the effects as an athlete in and out of sports, which became a daunting task. 

Rayel Hunter: Senior Captain of the Football team

Rayel Hunter is another senior at WOHS. After four years on the varsity football team, he is now the 2023-24 captain as a running back and receiver. Hunter is an outstanding football player and also a dedicated midfielder for the Boys’ Lacrosse team in the spring.

But even Hunter acknowledges, “Sometimes I wasn’t feeling as confident as I should be feeling going into a game. I feel like if I wasn’t having a good practice I feel like I wasn’t as prepared or ready for the game.” Hunter manages his stress by trying to disconnect from football. He mentions, “It’s a lot of football since the summer, it’s like football every day so I just try not to think about football and just hang out with friends and chill.” 

As a football captain, he knows it is a big role so he tries to be the best role model. He knows he needs to be confident in himself because then others won’t be confident in him, which can add a lot of pressure to an athlete. However, Hunter knows he needs to keep his confidence up and his intensity higher for his team. 

My own accounts as a student-athlete

I, Alicia Brown, have been cheering and doing pole vault since freshman year. As a junior, I have obtained a varsity spot in cheer as a flier and continue to pole vault for the varsity team. Self-doubt has significantly impacted me as an athlete throughout the years. 

Pole vault is definitely hard at meets. I see so many great athletes warming up and sometimes it can be intimidating because I had a rough morning or I am worried about a test that I have the next day, so it becomes challenging to center my focus on the vault. 

In the company of cheer, self-doubt is very personal to me. I rarely compare myself to other cheerleaders on other teams but compare myself to the previous year which can also give me self-doubt and make me lose more confidence. 

Being an upperclassman on my team and last year when I was coaching for recreation cheerleading made it harder because I had to set an example for the younger athletes and be approachable. When I am not having the best day, I still try to come to my practices with a smile on my face and try to find a positive attitude. 

My daily schedule usually gives me a lot of anxiety with and without school. I definitely had a very hard time my freshmen year going from one season to the next and not performing to my best ability in school. Over the years, I found ways to control my stress and make schedules for myself everyday which can be very hard for a junior to do. 

Anxiety creeps up on me at competitions and meets, however, I try to remind myself that I am here for one reason and it’s because I enjoy the sport. I remind my teammates that we have done this before and it’s nothing new to any of us. Where I am in the season is only where I put myself. You make decisions through the season that control where you will be by the end of it. 

With the challenges of being a student-athlete, it can be difficult mentally and physically trying to put in that hard work, but the outcome is fulfilling and should remind you that you can do it as long as you put your mind to it.

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About the Contributor
Alicia Brown, In Our School/Town Editor
Involved in journalism, broadcasting, and creative writing, Alicia Brown (she/her), junior at West Orange High School, is a new and optimistic In Our School/Town section editor of The Pioneer. She has prior experience with journalism, beginning in her freshman year. This year in newspaper class, she is confident in making both new connections and riveting articles for the school newspaper. Along with her interests in journalism and academics, Alicia also balances athletics, participating in pole vaulting, figure skating, and cheerleading. At UCA Cheer Camp, Alicia earned an impressive individual title, "All American", selected after cheerleaders from all over the nation try out through a sequence of jumps, cheer, and dance. After high school, she plans on continuing activities in college through sports journalism, specializing in the field to combine her passions.  Currently as a member of The Pioneer, she is confident in her writing abilities. Although she earned various achievements, her multitude of extracurriculars has caused her to face plenty of challenges. She tells herself to “Trust the process” knowing that if she continues to work hard and go with the flow, things will work out in the end, an excellent mindset for someone juggling a lot at once. If she were not to pursue a career in sports journalism, she hopes to explore a path in business management.  As someone who is proven to be a dedicated and a hard-working person, Alicia’s achievements are anticipated for her addition to The Pioneer, her work soon to be valued by her peers. She can be reached at [email protected]

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    Nijah CurtisNov 12, 2023 at 7:43 pm

    This is such a good read. I appreciate transparency of the athletes in their interviews. This article humanizes the varsity experience and is a great reference for aspiring young athletes.