The Atlantic recently excerpted a chapter from the book Bravey by Alexi Pappas . It outlines Pappas’ strong and noteworthy story about the female athlete and puberty.
Being forced to take a break from track to focus on soccer at high school (girls had to commit to one sport, the boys were allowed multiple), turned out to be a fortunate twist of fate for Pappas. The break from running allowed her body to do what it was supposed to; go through puberty unfettered.
Pappas writes “I inadvertently stopped training just long enough for my body to go through puberty without the strain of overtraining. I grew C-cup boobs; I gained some weight. I rode the puberty wave and then, when the time was right, I gradually increased my training. As a result I was far more physically resilient, powerful, and capable”.
Pappas, she admits herself, was a fortunate athlete. She ‘had the opportunity to safely and naturally grow a body durable enough to compete not only in college, but also beyond’. Others are not so lucky.
A voice for female athletes
There is a long path ahead before high school and collegiate sports adopt a different approach. A system to benefit the long-term athletic careers of athletes, as well as their health and wellbeing. But the conversations are coming forth and this is a step in the right direction.
The excerpted chapter in The Atlantic reveals Alexi Pappas has a bold, strong and intelligent voice, capable of introspection and able to use it to serve others.
Her voice serves to be part of the narrative lead the next generation of athletes. It challenges the high school and collegiate approach to female athletes and what we need: more women coaches and more scientific studies on female physiology.
Most important of all, we need the opportunity for girls to become the strong women they are destined to be in their own time and on their own terms.
“Alexi not only has a powerful way with words, but also uses the stories and lessons in this beautiful book as an intimate view into who she is. If you read this book, then you know Alexi, and knowing Alexi is truly a gift.”—Mary Cain
Alexi Pappas also does not shy away from the challenges of mental health she has faced. Hers starts with a tale of her mother taking her own life when Alexi was five years old.
Pappas, an extremely motivated person, took that mindset and used it to get her all the way to the 2016 Olympics. However, after the Olympics she herself was diagnosed with severe clinical depression.
The topic of high-performing athletes developing mental health issues has been addressed in the documentary ‘The Weight of Gold’.
In a recent video for The New York Times, Pappas explains if athletes approached their mental health with the same vigor they approach their physical wellbeing, it could be game-changing. Shifting her mindset to understand hers was a mental ‘injury’ became her approach the healing process. As an athlete, that made sense to her.
Like elite athletes, those who holds themselves to extreme standard can also be at risk of mental health challenges. We may be quick to jump on physical ailments, but it’s harder to identify and ask for support when it comes to mental ‘injuries.’
Watch Alexis Pappas’ video and ask yourself what you can do for your mental health this year? Being aware is the first step to a mentally healthy year ahead for you and those around you.