Coach Zachary Shuler (Courtesy photo)

The best thing that anyone can do in today’s world to ensure that they are in the best shape and can function at such a high intensity, is to train and work on your different skills.

We see this with plenty of athletes across the country, from youth to professionals. The amount of effort and determination it takes to repeatedly workout and practice is what it takes to be physically dominant.

But what about the mental aspect of this process? Mental health amongst athletes is responsible for development and processing information that helps athletes overcome various challenges.

Athletes at every level, from grade school to professional, often deal with mental battles that the sport may cause them. Things such as a heavy workload in the classroom, financial hardships, or even relationships with their families can affect an athlete in how they perform and how they express themselves.

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I had the pleasure of interviewing national champion coach and former pro-level basketball player, Zachary Shuler. He currently coaches at Lake Raleigh Prep, where he helps produce college athletes and mentors the basketball players at his school. He also coaches for children as young as 7 years old, helping them with fundamentals and more.

When speaking with Coach Shuler, I asked him about the mental health of the young athletes that he coaches every day.

“At every level, there is something different that each kid/teenager must go through. Some may struggle getting a simple ride to practice, while others may not have the finances to pay for food and water to keep them healthy,” he said.

He proceeded to tell me about how he became a coach and what that experience was like when walking into different gyms and locker rooms.

“I started out doing volunteer work, coaching, and helping young kids win games and achieve their goals. But when I became a first-year coach, I was able to see what they go through on a deeper level. Different kids with different backgrounds were something I had to consider,” said Shuler.

“I had to be patient with them and help them develop. Using methods such as teammate activities and bonding exercises, was how I was able to connect and help them. My first-year coaching was my first national championship team.”

As the conversation continued, Coach Shuler informed me that a lot of the athletes that are pushing hard to achieve their dreams, often lose track of who they really are.

“Some kids only know one thing: sports. Without that, they feel like they have nothing, and that’s the problem.”

As sports continue to evolve, and athletes are expected to get better, we must remember that the mental health of these student-athletes matter too. Half of the battle starts with your mentality, someone that we cannot take for granted, no matter the age.

To better prepare, speak with your child and see how they feel. Also, we must understand that there is life outside of sports.

For more information, contact your local doctor.