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The "Man Up" Card

Updated on December 23, 2015

When I was a freshman in high school, to everyone’s surprise, I played field hockey. I don’t know where I got this idea from, but I do know that it definitely wasn’t my best choice. I hated it so very much and learned a lot more life lessons than I ever did about field hockey. Besides the obvious; dedication and commitment, hard work leading to success and practice makes perfect, I learned something that I never expected to during that season.

During the practices, we used one of the two fields behind my high school, the other one being used by the boy’s football team. As many of you may know, football is taken very seriously to many, specifically in high school. I would watch the tall, sweaty and hard working football players doing drills conducted by their coaches, as whistles were being blown and tempers were flying. The football practices and the field hockey practices had many similarities. We both ran a lot, we both had loud coaches that yelled a lot, there was a lot of competition among the players and the two teams playing against each other, therefore leading to lots of pressure being put on everyone on the team.

After maybe the third or fourth practice, I quickly learned that I hated running, I hated being yelled at by coaches, I hated the competition and above all, I hated the pressure that each game brought. In my mind, anxiety is subsequent to pressure of any kind. Around that time, I had many other struggles that were taking place in my life outside of field hockey, anxiety being one of them. And at that time, whenever I would struggle being inside my head for too long, I would try to find something else to look at and think about, creating scenarios and what if’s about each subject at hand.

One of the main things I focused on instead of field hockey would have been the football players occupying the field next to the one I was practicing on. Maybe it was because I was a 14 year old girl staring at the senior boys playing football, maybe it was the comparing and contrasting I liked doing in relation to the two sports, but it was mainly because of the insane whistle blowing, yelling and the sounds of football helmets crashing against each other as one player would tackle the other that would draw my attention during every practice.

As I recall this infamous sound, I remember realizing that the football players quite possibly had it much harder than I did. If their coaches yelled at them the same way that mine did to me, I could only imagine what it did to their patience, mental health and confidence. Maybe I’m overreacting or seeing it from a wrong perspective, but I know that my coaches brought my confidence and self-esteem to an unhealthy level and my mental health got worse as the season progressed. All I know is that it takes a special type of person to want to get yelled at every day and find it fun, as it certainly wasn’t that way for me. I give athletes a lot of credit for playing their sports, rain or shine, and still being dedicated and motivated to carry on.

It was interesting for me to hear what the coaches had to say to the players and shockingly, there were times when their words weren’t just pertaining to football. There was one day in particular that I remember when a coach was evaluating the performance of one of the players. Evidently the player wasn’t performing to the standards of the coach because from my position on the field I heard him yell “Get off your butt and man up!” Phrases just like that were thrown around the field as if it was nothing. It was then that I realized just how much boys can also struggle while being put under pressure.

For some reason, I think society has this preconceived idea that boys can just shake things off and ignore negative comments without letting it impact their self-esteem and mental state. Words can make or break people, so if not arranged in an adequate way, they can do more damage than the speaker could ever imagine. I think we need to remember that it is just as hard to be a Ken doll as it is to be a Barbie. There are just as many expectations on boys as there are on girls.

For example, it is a well known fact that eating disorders are far more common in girls than in boys. However, this statistic doesn’t mean that boys with eating disorders don’t exist. There are still boys that struggle with body image issues, just in a different way. While they may not worry about dress sizes, they worry about staying overly in shape for a sports season. My knowledge about sports is slim to none so I can’t really elaborate on this hypothesis, but I can tell you that boys struggle with mental health issues just as much as girls.

Depression isn’t only girls cutting themselves, an eating disorder isn’t always a girl throwing up in a bathroom and anxiety isn’t just getting nervous on a test. These are all components and symptoms of these mental disorders, however there is much more to them than what society paints the picture of in relation to each issue.

I guess what I learned in field hockey was that the male gender has just as much pressure to be perfect put on them as females do. Everyone’s perspective of perfection is different, as some people prefer to look like the picture perfect models in magazines while others want to be the MVP on their sports team. No matter what the situation, girls and boys alike can be affected by words said by their coaches or other authority figures in their life.

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