Watching people post and make comments on Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles for the last few weeks has been very upsetting for me.
I have said for a long time that I don’t think that people who have not played team or elite level sports should be able, feel emboldened, to comment on professional athletes and the things that they do.
Like if you did not at least play varsity I am going to need you to sit out the commentary on sporting activity in general because you have no idea what these folks are going through to be where they are. (Not saying that high school sports are anywhere near the same level but you at least had to be dedicated enough to make the team. You know dedication. You know competition. You worked hard. Professionals just perfected their craft. PER-FEC-TED!)
Mental toughness is a hard thing. Being able to stop and take stock of you and where you are in the moment and what you need to do to hone in and compete is amazing. As someone who played sports since the age of five I know of mental toughness. I think I might have glimpsed it one or two times but for me, what drove me, was an insane competitive spirit. I wanted to win and be better so bad I was willing to do anything. It takes a special person however to be able to harness that competitive edge AND a mental space, strength, and will to go out on the floor, court, or mat and kill it EVERY SINGLE TIME.
That is why I sympathize with these two so, so much. They not only do both of those things but they perform in an elite manner with everyone in the world watching them. Some cheering them on but just as many waiting for them to fail – wishing, wanting, and hoping that they fail.
These girls have built themselves up in sports that do not value them or their Black bodies and have succeeded against all odds. Both of them have been role models, stalwarts, leaders of their sport, their craft, and their teammates and yet this is the thanks that they get. Hated and vitriol hurled at them from the same folks who cheered them on previously. A lack of understanding from some and a demand of explanation when the opposite should be the case.
Think back to a time when you were so overwhelmed by something that you couldn’t operate. When all you wanted to do what sit down and relax, clear your mind from the buzz of activity. Now imagine if, during that time, everywhere you turn someone is watching you – calling you weak. What would you do? NOW, now that you feel that way go and perform in front of everyone and do it perfectly.
It’s messed up. I hope they both find the love and support that they need now. I hope that feel the love I am sending to them now. I want them to know that do not have to push though pain, physical or mental, to be worthy. I hope that they feel the embrace of their supporters and those who are learning to support once again.
Either way neither of them need it – they are already champions many times over. What is missing one Olympics and a few tournaments going to do?
Oh to be young, gifted, and Black.