By: Mateo Gil, Former College Baseball Player
Within each and every one of us is an inner being. Whether one is truly happy with his or her current situation or is in a place of complete confusion, there is always room for improvement. In the sports world, mental health plays a huge role in success and the productivity of one's career. Not many athletes are taught the critical techniques needed to overcome the many obstacles that every athlete faces at some point.
So let's dive straight in and get down to it. Well, who am I and why am I stressing the importance of mental health? My name is Mateo Gil. I’m 20 years old and have had an athletic career that has had major highs and extreme lows, like many players around me. Whether you are a 10 year old little league player or a 23 year old professional athlete grinding your way to the show, overcoming adversity is imperative. I have felt first-hand the repercussions of not having the proper practices and mindset to deal with various issues and internal unrest. I played my high school career at Grand Street Campus, the home of Yankees All-star pitcher, Dellin Betances, along with many other professional athletes and division-1 stars. As a young athlete, I had one goal in mind: play division-1 sports and then go on to play professionally. I was also a dual sport athlete, which helped me develop an insane work ethic; and that allowed me to be able to perform both sports at a high level.
My junior year of high school I quit my football team when I received my first division-1 baseball scholarship offer, looking to avoid the risk of injury. Just like many aspiring athletes, I went to so many camps filled with all levels of college coaches and pro scouts. I was arrogant and was completely self-centered as an athlete and a person. Whenever a division-2 or 3 college coach would approach me, I would be respectful but ultimately would disregard the opportunity seeing it as settling for less. Growing up, I was taught that anything lower than "D1", was not looked upon as being successful. As the time came closer to the NLI singing date, I still only had my one "D1" offer, constantly being rejected by other schools due to my 7.7 60 yard dash time. Constantly being rejected was a severe knock on my ego and it began to inflect great stress. In the end, my one and only division-1 scholarship was pulled due to the roster changes at the institution I was ready to commit to. At this point, I was beyond stressing as I had no firm offers having made the critical mistake of disregarding all division-2 and division-3 offers. Luckily, no more than 20 minutes after being told the one offer I had relied on and staked my future on had been pulled, I got a call from another division-2 school who wanted to vet my interest in attending to play ball. The dream was still alive and I wasn't about to let this opportunity fade.
I went on to have a hard time interacting with my team due to my own arrogance and self-centered approach. Even though I performed well during the season, my playing time was limited and with the ego I had, it weighed heavily on me; I wasn't a team player and it was evident.
I then transferred to a JUCO in Maryland, where the problems would only get worse. As my mental health deteriorated and I slipped further into a state of anger, off-the-field issues started to manifest. I wasn't happy with where my career was going. I was tired of feeling helpless given no matter what I tried, nothing would work. I then decided to seek professional help. I began over the phone therapy with someone from my hometown. I began to see a change in the way I handled situations and why I did certain things. Recognizing the minimal progress I had made, I wanted more. I wanted to continue to correct all of the deficiencies that I was experiencing in my life and propel myself forward.
Mental health is the foundation upon which all other facets of life rely. If things aren't sound mentally, everything will suffer. With the help of therapy, reading, and speaking with mentors, my mental health is on the rise and my approach to life has changed drastically. In addition to bettering myself as a person, I also have developed a love for helping others. One day, I want to help younger athletes to overcome adversity and support mental health; a goal of mine is to soon create a free program for the youth players that can assist with relationship building on the field and off.
To conclude, taking a proactive stance on the mental aspect of athletics is so important for overall sustainability. If you are experiencing uneasiness, speak to someone about some of your life challenges both on and off the field. It is way more difficult to fix a problem or address a situation alone. What worked for me, which I would also recommend is then writing down exactly what it is you are trying to change and laying out a plan to do it. It's important to remember that life is always changing and the word "perfect" doesn’t exist. However, it's the process of trying to get as close to "perfect" as possible where you find the most valuable thing that one can get: experience.
Thank you for reading and taking a step towards bettering yourself...
I am not a professional by any means but if anyone ever needs to talk about anything or has any questions, please feel free to reach out!
Instagram account: @mateogil.6