Naomi Osaka Fined at French Open May 28, 2021 19:42:59 GMT
Post by Admin on May 28, 2021 19:42:59 GMT
As a professional athlete, you're expected to be available for the media, especially post-competition. In fact, it's not just expected; it's required — with the threat of financial punishment used as leverage for those who don't comply. For decades now, being available to the media has been considered an integral part of the job.
So if you, too, want to be a sports superstar, you'd better get used to answering questions, whether you like it or not, no matter how you're feeling.
And don't even bother hoping that the questions are good.
Naomi Osaka won't talk to press at French Open, citing mental health concerns
"How did it feel to have those punts returned for touchdowns?" "Do you think you cost your team the game?" "Can you tell us what happened on that shanked kick?" These are all questions I've heard repeatedly before, with various degrees of intensity and at various volumes, generally after 3½ hours performing exhaustive physical activity, when the last thing I wanted to do was talk to anybody.
My opinion as a retired professional athlete? I think Naomi Osaka is absolutely right.
That's why I thought Naomi Osaka's recent social media statement — in which she outlined how the toll of constantly interacting with the sports media was negatively affecting her mental health — was remarkably powerful. She laid out, clearly and concisely, the issues affecting her and said she'd be willing to take the fines not to have to deal with the stress anymore ... which has led to conversation about whether an athlete should even be able to do such a thing.
When you spend years of your life pushing yourself to get to the pinnacle of your sport, you tend to be somewhat competitive — so not performing up to your own standards hurts. And only those who, after poor performances, are able to put them behind them and regain their focus end up succeeding, which makes having to relive those negative moments in response to media questions all the more draining.
I'm never surprised when an athlete doesn't want to talk to the media after a tough outing. It sucks, and it makes you feel worse.
That drained feeling gets even worse when the questions never change, because how many different ways are there, really, to ask, "So, how and why did you screw up today?"
Screaming "Obviously not because I wanted to!" at the top of your lungs while throwing a chair at the questioner is frowned upon in polite society, but I guarantee you that we're all thinking it. When you leave everything out on the field/court/rink and you lose anyway, it can take a while to mentally get over that disappointment. Having to politely answer the same old blindingly obvious and yet unanswerable questions afterward is just the garbage cherry in a sewer water smoothie.
So I'm never surprised when an athlete doesn't want to talk to the media after a tough outing. It sucks, and it makes you feel worse.
However, I think there is merit to having athletes engage with the media — and thereby fans — after games and matches, too. One of the reasons modern sports are so popular is that people care about what athletes have to say, and having access to those athletes is an integral part of the sports media environment. The reason people spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on their favorite sports is that they feel a connection to both the teams and the players, and naturally they want to know what those players think and feel.
For too long we've ignored the mental health of professional athletes, demanding that they be warriors able to withstand any sort of pressure no matter what it takes to do their job.
Without the media's being able to interview athletes, that connection dwindles, and salaries go down as fans spend less money. From a financial perspective, giving the media more access to athletes means more money for athletes, so it's understandable why it's considered part of the job.
The problem, of course, is that just because something makes people more money doesn't necessarily mean it's the best course of action. For too long we've ignored the mental health of professional athletes, demanding that they be warriors able to withstand any sort of pressure no matter what it takes to do their job. It's time that we, as a society, have an honest conversation about the damage that can cause — which Naomi Osaka's statement beautifully illustrates. Mental health is important no matter who you are, and athletes are first and foremost human beings.