By Zac Cornell
Tennis superstars Naomi Osaka and Ash Barty have turned the spotlight on mental health issues that many athletes struggle with, and now the Women’s Tennis Association has announced a deal with San Francisco-based startup Modern Health to raise awareness around mental health and connect their WTA members with therapists and mental health coaches.
The WTA and Modern Health will create a five-part video series along with top tennis players to raise awareness about mental struggles, a conversation that continues to get more attention as players like Osaka and Barty publicly share their experiences. Barty, the number one ranked player in the world, recently shocked the tennis world when she announced her retirement at the age of twenty-five, explaining she didn’t have the “emotional drive” to continue competing.
“Athletes are supposed to be invincible,” said Micky Lawler, president of the WTA. Addressing one’s mental health “shouldn’t be seen as a weakness, but evaluated like every other part of an athlete’s health.”
While mental training has been incorporated into elite sports training for a while, experts point to the rise of social media as well as the isolation experienced during the pandemic as some of the added stressors that athletes now face. However, the rise in telemedicine as a result of the pandemic can facilitate people’s access to mental health resources, and new companies like Modern Health are popping up to provide increased, convenient access to therapists, life coaches, and other mental health tools.