Prioritizing mental health during the Olympic season


Helena Randolph '24

Athletes experience increased levels of stress while competing in sports.

The twenty-fourth Winter Olympics took place from February 4 until February 20 in Beijing, China.  Representatives from 91 countries competed and Norway won overall with a total of 37 medals.  This year, several prominent athletes spoke out about the mental pressures of the competition, calling international attention to the importance of mental health in athletics.  At Sacred Heart Greenwich, student-athletes learn ways to manage the stress of competitions.

Ms. Mikaela Shiffrin, two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup alpine skier, participated in six events in the recent Winter Olympics.  Over her career, she placed first in 73 World Cup races and has a total of 47 wins in the slalom skiing event.  She currently holds the record for the most wins by an alpine skier in a single discipline.

During the Winter Olympics, Ms. Shiffrin fell, or “skied out,” three times during her ski runs.  She first skied out in the slalom and giant slalom events, before placing ninth overall in the super giant slalom (super-G) and eighteenth in the downhill event.  She later failed to finish the slalom portion of the combined event.  In the mixed team parallel slalom event, the United States did not place and Ms. Shiffrin did not win a medal during her third Olympic Winter Games.

Mikaela Shiffrin fails to complete the first run of the slalom at the Beijing Olympics.  Courtesy of

In an interview with NBC Sports after failing to complete her first run for the second consecutive event, Ms. Shiffrin put her emotions into words on

“I had every intention to go full gas and there wasn’t really space in the course to slip,” Ms. Shiffrin said.  “I didn’t give myself space for that and in my experience, that mentality has brought my best skiing.  Today I went out on the fifth gate.”

After Ms. Shiffrin’s third Did Not Finish (DNF), she explained her emotions towards her skiing, saying, “I feel like a joke,” according to NBC Sports on

The stigma surrounding mental health and the pressure of competition at a high level often impacts athletes, leaving them with negative mindset that can affect their performances, according to The New York Times.  In some cases, athletes have opted out of events entirely due to mental health issues.  In the recent Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Ms. Simone Biles competed in the balance beam final before withdrawing from the event finals for vault, uneven bars, and the individual all-around competition to prioritize her mental health.

Sophomore Caroline Fouts, a member of the Sacred Heart Greenwich winter squash team, shared insight regarding sports and mental health and described how she copes with nerves during competitions.

Sophomore Caroline Fouts is a member of the Sacred Heart Greenwich varsity squash team.  Courtesy of Sacred Heart Communications Department

“Because squash is an individual sport I find that in competition there are always high-pressure situations, so in preparation for competing at this level I work with a sports psychologist,” Caroline said.  “Working with this mental toughness coach has really prepared me for these high-pressure situations as I am able to keep a high level of focus for extended periods of time while eliminating some nervous energy or emotions that come with the highs and lows of any competition.”

At Sacred Heart, Dr. Lisa Schwartz, School Psychologist, and Dr. Melissa Otero, School Psychologist and Middle School Wellness Teacher, are available to offer student-athletes tips for maintaining their well-being.  Seniors Charlotte Burchetta and Charlotte Marvin also run the Sacred Heart Behind Every Smile Club which works to spread awareness on the importance of mental health and promote happiness in every student.  The club hosts presentations for the Upper School on various mental health issues pertaining to the student body.

Caroline emphasized the importance of both physical and mental well-being.  She noted the importance of prioritizing mental health to limit stress during competitions.

“The inevitable stress that comes with competition typically affects me the most before a match, and fortunately, not during an intense game,” Caroline said.  “The stress that comes with completion is inherently a part of the sport so learning how to limit its effect on my performance is very important.”

Featured Image by Helena Randolph ’24