Maintaining Balance

Mental and physical health go hand-in-hand

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Mandalin Mitchell

Junior Jacob Craig [second from bottom left] prepares to run a cross country race Sept. 3. Craig balances mental and physical fitness in his life.

Lauren West, Chief Entertainment Editor

Body is shaking, words are trembling, heart is racing, ever so patiently waiting for the race to begin; however, whatever challenges may lie ahead on the course do not begin to compare to the mental battle one may be fighting from within. Everyone has all been there at one time or another, speech, sports, jobs, extracurricular activities, theater, difficult classes or planning for the future. Student athletes are expected to maintain schoolwork, athletics and a personal life, but in order to be successful in any one of these categories, one must first conquer the hardest battle of all: mental fitness.
Junior Jacob Craig has been running with the North Canton boys cross country and track teams for the past four years. His greatest accomplishment as a Hoover athlete has been helping his team to a Stark County team title in both cross country and track. He is passionate about running, yet has come face-to-face with many of the harrowing challenges with mental health.
“I realized this spring that in order to be successful physically and be good at my sport, I have to be mentally strong enough to deal with both school stress and my sport,” he said.
Craig commonly found that he would compare himself to others, and would hyperfixate on the most insignificant things.
He slowly felt himself falling out of love with running and felt the urge to end his running career. He was referring to the 2022 track season, when his team advanced to nationals.
“I felt a lot of pressure to perform, especially since my teammates were all drastically better than me, and I knew going into the race that I was going to be one of the slowest runners,” he said.
Craig was forced to come to terms with the fact that his absolute best might not be enough to win, and this took a major toll on his mental health. His mind convinced him that he was only holding his team members back. As these intrusive thoughts swarmed his mind he was slowly losing control. Only 20 minutes before the race began, Craig was on the verge of a panic attack. The team did not perform as expected and Craig placed a lot of blame on himself.
After this unfortunate outcome, Craig lost his passion for the sport. He suddenly found his goals unreachable and heavily considered stepping away from the team forever.
He had to do something about it.
Over time, Craig was able to find his way back to loving this sport. However, this was not an easy or quick process. He was forced to take a brief step back and really connect with himself. He made time to spend with his friends and found activities such as kayaking and swimming to be extremely helpful. Craig also valued talking through his struggles, and he is extremely grateful to have had a teacher and coach present to help him through this process.
Mr. Nick Stroemple is the head boys cross country coach and health teacher here at Hoover.
“An athlete may have all the physical preparation necessary, but if they don’t also prepare their mental aspect of the game, they may not perform up to their full potential,” he said.
Stroemple spoke very highly of Craig, stating that he is an incredibly hard-working athlete and that his mental toughness and focus has played a major role in his success as an athlete.
As a student athlete, it is important to be informed of the available resources. Here at Hoover, there are counselors and therapists available at all times to support you through any aspect of life.
Mr. Brian Girdlestone is the head girls soccer coach as well as the Success Counselor.
“As a school counselor, I often have students who are feeling overwhelmed,” he said. “What I try to do is to get them more relaxed by simplifying the problem for them, whether by prioritizing things, or just listening, or by focusing on certain subjects first and emailing teachers.”
Another available resource within the walls of Hoover High School is Mental Health Counselor Mr. Brian Young. Young works individually with students to not only dive deeper into what they might be dealing with, but experiment with a variety of approaches that might be helpful to them.
“I view mental and physical health as deeply connected.” Young said. “Caring for your body with rest, a steady supply of energy, exercise, and connection to nature are the foundation for mental health.”