Competitive sport is all about handling the pressure. We hear success stories of people who overcome their concerns and climbed great heights. But at times, the over bounding pressure by media and fans can make the players, especially the younger lot feel vulnerable.
Coco Gauff’s fight with depression
Teenage tennis sensation Coco Gauff suffered depression as a 14-year-old, just before her history-making Wimbledon appearance. Gauff struggled with her mental health after being touted as the next big thing in tennis and the new Serena Williams by the fans and the media.
“Throughout my life, I was always the youngest to do things, which added hype that I didn’t want,” Gauff told the ‘Behind the Racquet’ website.
“It added this pressure that I needed to do well fast. Right before Wimbledon, going back to around 2017/18, I was struggling to figure out if this was really what I wanted. I always had the results so that wasn’t the issue, I just found myself not enjoying what I loved. I realized I needed to start playing for myself and not for others. For about a year I was really depressed. That was the toughest year for me so far.”
The Young Champion!
At 15 years, Gauff had become the youngest player to qualify for Wimbledon last summer. She went on to reach the last 16 at the All England Club, beating former champion Venus Williams. She made it to the third round of the US Open and fourth round at the Australian Open 2020.
In between, she won her first WTA title at Linz. Gauff feels that the comparisons with the Williams sisters will only intensify in the coming future. “I am not at their level yet. I always feel like it’s not fair to the Williams sisters to be compared to someone who is just coming up. I still look at them as my idols. Of course, I hope to get to where they are, but they are the two women that set the pathway for myself, which is why I can never be them.”
Looking at Coco’s personal struggles and the many similar ones out there, don’t you think the media and fans should let the players express themselves freely by generating a conductive environment, not a competitive one?