Waking up to read Naomi Osaka's news on leaving French Open 2021 citing Mental Health Issues was a wake up call for a professional like me. While reading this news, all I could think about was this woman was that she inspired so many others (Read: BLM activism) while she was going through bouts of depression! (That is human power, my friend). While we are taught to have unconditional positive regard (Thank you Carl Rogers), but when it comes to some people who are associated with sports- media, some rules, I have strong judgments. And Osaka's new just proves that mental health of an athlete isnt at all regarded and respected.
Mental health, unlike athlete injury, is hidden.
Hidden under success,
Hidden under so many grand slams.
Hidden under powerful activism.
One step ahead towards mental health and self-care... but hey,
Yes, one step towards bettering her mental health, which actually could prove detrimental to her 'fame' as a tennis player- not interacting with the media, and she was fined EUR15000 to take that step. Unfortunately, it is a part of athlete contrat that need to interact with the media.
Mind you, that step would not have affected any part of the French Open 2021. We would have still seen Osaka smashing aces. And French Open Would have got the viewership it deserved.
But as Osaka stated,
"People have no regard for athletes' mental health. This rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one. We're often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds. I'm not going to subject myself to people that doubt me."
We have seen this time and again. Not only in tennis, in other sports too. We have seen press drill some players to that an extent that they get a quote and they misquote the verbatim through a headline.
Yet, we did have athletes who didn't want to talk to the media. MS Dhoni said that Post Match press conferences are a waste of time (Jun 2, Hindustan Times)
So like Osaka says, does media and may I add social media add to the misery and melancholy of an athlete? Well, many would just say ignore the media. Ignorance is bliss. Or just answer them back. But not everyone can be a José Mourinho.
So does this mean every athlete needs to talk to the media ALWAYS?
No, that is not the solution. But athletes should be given the choice not to talk to the media after matches because they are people first, who have a choice not to talk when it is their mental health at stake.
Fining her meant reprimanding her position. Meant disregarding the reason why she opted out of press conferences. This would be as good as saying, "You are injured, we will be fining you for not playing"
This never happened before...
That is because no one spoke up? YES!!!
In todays world, the external pressures have increased. Media pressure has definitely increased. We also have Media Court that decides a lot of things on behalf of the court of law.
Need to be present on social media. Need to advertise through social media. Need to be there, out there. Naomi Osaka always seemed to be shy of talking to the media. Not everyone can develop to become confident to speak. But she spoke through:
Her stance of social issues.
I personally feel, she took a very bold decision. And as fans, it is our job to support her decision. As a professional, I feel she definitely needs to do the needful and get back with a bang! :) More power to her!
So coming back to being non-judgmental and have positive unconditional regard, let us respect her stance and not pass judgments. She did not disregard the fine, neither did she call out names to any of the French Open Organisers. I personally feel, she took a very bold decision. And as fans, it is our job to support her decision. As a professional, I feel she definitely needs to do the needful and get back with a bang! :) More power to her!