Akwasi Frimpong Writes: Mental health in the world of sports

With the increased awareness around mental health that has come about in the past few years, more and more individuals have realized the importance of it in sustaining themselves and maintaining their functionality.

Akwasi Frimpong picture by Christian Wilson in October 2019

The same goes for athletes. Be it a football player or baseball champion, it can become quickly overwhelming for any athlete to deal with the pressure of fulfilling expectations and overcome failure.

Let’s take a look at the stigma around mental health in sports and how athletes can deal with stress.

The Stigma

An athlete’s physical fitness is their utmost priority because it affects the way they play. This is why these injuries are quickly taken care of. But when it comes to their mental health, people aren’t that quick to respond, extend help, or show sympathy.


The stigma around mental health that persists in our society propagates the notion that any individual who seeks mental counseling is unfit. This often forces athletes to keep their mental health problems to themselves. They’re more likely to suffer in silence than seek help from a mental health professional.

Unfortunately, this can have detrimental consequences. Various studies in sports psychology have shown that mental health can affect a player’s game, impede their productivity, and chip away from their will to continue with their career in sports.

It Stops Now

The growing uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic and the fear of contracting the virus has affected the mental health of many across the globe. In light of these circumstances, it’s unfair and impossible to expect our athletes to be mentally fit.

Now is the time to stand up against this stigma around mental health in sports and make a change. We must normalize seeking help for mental health issues, not just for the athletes' sake but also for our community's sake.


How Athletes Can Cope With Stress

Resilience is one of the most important factors that affect an athletes’ performance—and this resilience comes from the ability to overcome mental health problems and cope with stress in a healthy way.

Here are a few ways athletes can cope with stress:

Be flexible with your expectations and goals so that the overbearing pressure doesn’t get to you. Make it a point to evaluate your goals and revise them so you can also focus on enjoying the game instead of merely trying to win.

Introduce lifestyle changes in your routine that help you cope with burnout. This can help you maintain the excitement of the game as well.


Recognize your own strength and resourcefulness, and try to identify your shortcomings. This will help you achieve self-confidence and give you the boost to perform and feel better.

Build healthy and supportive relationships that you can rely on in times of need.

As the first black male Skeleton athlete from Africa, I know that my game is only as good as my mental resolve.

I believe that anyone can develop their skills and abilities with dedication, hard work, and self-awareness—and this is why I am more determined than ever to represent my country in the Olympics.


Follow my journey as I prepare for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Akwasi Frimpong is a former Dutch-Ghanaian sprinter, 2018 Winter Olympian for Ghana and the first African athlete in history to win a skeleton race. Frimpong is currently training for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games where he hopes to win Africa’s first ever Winter Olympic Games medal. This column was written by Akwasi Frimpong for Pulse Ghana. Visit Frimpong’s webpage to follow his Olympic journey.

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