Mental health matters for athletes, local sports psychologist weigh in

Mental health matters for athletes, local sports psychologist weigh in
Posted at 3:22 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 18:26:32-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Mental health impacts athletes of all ages and sometimes the pressure to perform can be overwhelming or too much to handle.

News5 spoke with Dr. Roberta Kraus, who works with athletes at all levels, including Olympians and Paralympics. She mentioned the pressure is on for many athletes and it starts at a young age.

"It really starts at the club level, because that's where a lot of collegiate scouts, scout for athletes today. There's an investment of time and money from the parents. So all of a sudden the parents are overly invested and they want to return their investment," said Dr. Kraus. "So the pressure builds and builds and it continues all the way through the collegiate and Olympic level."

Dr. Kraus is the president of the Center for Sports Psychology in Colorado Springs who's been working in the field for nearly 25 years.

She says for athletes, "too many times, pressure that is self-induced from athletes, by coaches, parents, and fans gets them away from thinking about why they perform the sport in the first place," said Dr. Kraus.

Her job is to put mental health first for local athletes. Her work includes mental training for individual athletes and their personal struggles, as well as team dynamics.

"With every team or athlete I work with, I always insist that we start with, to find a vision for what success is," said Dr. Kraus.

Dr. Kraus says success should never be defined as the outcome of the goal because athletes can't control that. Instead, she works with athletes on how to perform at their best level on a consistent
basis despite the pressures they face.

"We have to spend time getting them back to the love of their sport, the love of performing and the love of participating the sport," said Dr. Kraus. "Versus worrying about a ranking, a world record or a podium. As soon as you start focusing on an outcome, you're adding additional pressure that starts in the mind, and the mind and the heart always decides what your body does."

She's now working with the U.S Women's Paralympic wheelchair basketball team for the 2020 Tokyo games and they have a vision for what success means to them.

"We are going to prepare with pride, were going to trust the process. We're going to outwork the world, we're going to raise the bar and we're going to be family," said Dr. Kraus.

Dr. Kraus also mentioned at some point, parents should be open to getting coached as well by an athlete. For example, ask yourself or the athlete in your family, "How can I best support that person in their sport?"

Part of Dr. Kraus's job also includes working with athletes and coming up with a routine before a game or an event. For a team, she educates them on knowing how to communicate with the team or how to lead as a captain.