An Open Letter to Naomi Osaka
It’s with a heavy heart that I write you this letter because I feel the weight of the emotional pain you must be experiencing. Not only are you carrying the weight of the depression you sometimes feel, but there are also certain people/organizations that are wanting you to carry the weight of their emotions. Who knew so many unimportant people would think it was important to publicize their thoughts on your decision to prioritize your mental wellness? Despite their input, I hope some of the weight you are carrying has subsided since making your decision to step away from the French Open.
Being a professional athlete is one of the most difficult careers out there, and many don’t understand what it takes to do your job. Not only are you expected to perform well on the court, but you are also expected to perform well off the court. It’s as if you are asked to always be on. When do you have time out of the spotlight? Who teaches you how to perform off the court? When do you get to set the boundaries that will help you perform best, mentally and physically? For long-term sustainability in the world of professional athletics, it is important for these questions to be answered, along with so many others. It is necessary to examine all facets of the job and to determine what you need for your overall success.
Despite the naysayers, I want you to know there are far more people in your corner. It is amazing to see the outpouring of compassion you are receiving from colleagues across the sports industry. I hope you are leaning on them during this time. They are among the incredibly small group of people who can relate to the successes and difficulties of your job. I also hope you have people within your circle who you can lean on. The function of a healthy supportive network is invaluable, especially during life seasons in which you might feel ostracized and lonely.
In the event you would prefer objective support, there are also a number of sports psychologists and other mental health professionals who specialize in working with professional athletes. You don’t have to figure it out on alone. You did a healthy thing in prioritizing your mental wellness and it should be praised across the board. You are a phenomenal woman, with many years of greatness ahead. Pace yourself and take care of yourself. I support you 100% and I am here should you ever need anything.
Ayo Akindumila, LMFT is a Staff Therapist at our Center City and University City Offices. She currently sees clients via online therapy. To set up an appointment, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-382-6680 ext. 7080.