Every Struggle Is Different: Exploring Mental Health In UH Athletics

A little different the daily today. GoCoogs.com is introducing an important new series, perhaps the most important thing we’ve ever done here. The subject is mental health struggles in athletes, specifically UH Athletes, and how they go about compartmentalizing it, dealing with it, and how many find coping strategies to work through them.

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After UH’s shocking loss to Miami in the Sweet 16, most of us in Kansas City were frantically trying to find a flight home on Saturday. We had varying degrees of success: Andy Yanez had to go through Minnesota to get a wedding on the East Coast. I went through Charlotte to get to Houston on a marathon day.

The first leg was fine, but from Charlotte to Houston, my seat was next to a college soccer player from Stetson flying to Houston for medical care on an off-the-pitch issue. As we started talking, she was interested in GoCoogs and my passion for our website. Soon, I learned about her passion for mental health in college athletes.

She explained things, challenged my assumptions, and asked me to think about it from an athlete’s perspective. She explained how mental health affects athletes and how each situation differs. I started to think of examples at UH and thought this might be something GoCoogs wants to explore.

This soccer player, who is from Houston, told me about situations that I’d never considered. Depression in sports, issues when you’re no longer “the man” and on a team of stars, imposter syndrome, coping with their shelf life, losing their identity, losing their standing, expectations, OCD issues relating to sports, navigating the transfer portal and the effects of it, social media pressures – now compounded with more widely-available gambling, the added pressures of NIL and performing based on NIL, self-discipline, intense schedules, insular friend groups built around the sport, losing access to medical and mental health care, and as we once again saw this week, dealing with the loss of a teammate and friend.

We aim to bring these issues regarding athletes to light – to let them tell their stories on their terms. Fans know the jersey number and expect them to hit shots in crucial moments. But having good coaching, being a good athlete, and practicing your craft are but three components. The mental and emotional component is often unexplored, especially in young people who are usually away from home for the first time.

The GoCoogs.com series Every Struggle Is Different will be a year-long look at how present and former UH Athletes, coaches, and administrators cope, survive, and overcome those obstacles. Later today, we’ll tell the story of how one UH Athlete started to understand his mental and emotional needs and how they were met, in part, by transferring and bonding with his position coach. It’s powerful; we hope you share it with the UH Community.

UH Athletes, Administrators, Coaches, & Staff: We need your help. We need former and current UH Athletics personnel regarding their experiences, struggles, and successes. If you’d like to work with us on this – it can be a first-person narrative, a podcast, audio, an article, or just background info helping us do better work – please contact GoCoogs. We promise to keep this confidential until you’re ready to share with the UH Community.

Moving to the Big 12 is a big deal for fans, administrators, coaches, staff, and athletes. However, the needs of athletes need to be addressed.

Every Struggle Is Different might be the most important thing GoCoogs.com ever does. We are serious about it and have assembled a dedicated team to make a positive difference in UH Athletics.

Thank you for reading, and if you’re inclined, join GoCoogs to help us spread the message about UH Athletes, coaches, and admins grapple with and succeed with their personal mental health struggles.

Ryan Monceaux / Publisher

Out of the darkness: finding my why