MHSAA Women in Sports Leadership Conference: Making Change

I felt honored to speak to a group of strong young women last week at the MHSAA Women in Sports Leadership Conference. I loved seeing these ladies interested in mental health and asking thoughtful, important questions.

And it struck me, looking out into the audience, that these high schoolers are the future of sports. These are aspiring coaches and athletic directors.

They will impact lives.

I saw great potential, but also heartbreak. A few tears were shed in the audience as I shared my eating disorder experiences. Having spoken about my own story for years now, I’d forgotten the impact it first had on me, and how new it is for these students to hear. I’d forgotten how scary it was when I first admitted that something was wrong, because now it is so easy to talk about, and I am so far into recovery.

There was eagerness from the listeners–eagerness to learn more, to get more information. As one young woman said to me, “Your talk was the only one I found that was about mental health in sports. We need more of these.”

This is one comment I’ve received at most of the conferences I’ve spoken at so far. Workouts, techniques, and skills can do so much good for the sport, but without the mental health component in there, we may very well be losing some of these highly-skilled, dedicated athletes to issues like eating disorders.

I often wonder where I’d find myself today if I had been helped sooner. I then tell myself that maybe this is exactly where I needed to be, even if it hurts to think about how much I’ve lost from my eating disorder not being identified and treated sooner.

A few of the women approached me after the presentation about concerns with themselves or with a friend or teammates. I offered advice based on what I’ve learned through my own experience, and from experts like Dr. Paula Quatromoni.

I also encouraged them to become leaders to create change. They can be a part of making sure something is put into place to have the athletic community aware of the dark side of sports–not to scare people away from sports, but to keep them playing and enjoying them.

We can raise our voices to create awareness and show how prevalent this is.

No more “She just disappeared” phrases. More, “She is an outstanding leader, captain, coach, athletic director–making change.”

Making change.