When I was on the National Team, and especially during the 2012 Olympic year I went through several difficult situations outside of synchro that really affected my mental state in a negative way. I’m going to do a separate post about 2012 because I want to share the story that not many people know. During that year, and many other times, I felt very alone and unsupported. I had my family and non-synchro friends who I knew were there for me, but often times I felt like my teammates turned a blind eye to what I was going through. In synchro, your team is your family, and I think it’s so important to be able to support your teammates when they are going through something, whether you know the details of what’s going on or not.
I get it - difficult situations are uncomfortable. It’s much easier to talk about lighthearted things like who posted what on Instagram or what you’re going to wear on date night. One of the assumptions people make is that your teammate already has other people in her life who can be that support system and you think “I don’t have to be the one to help her because she has so and so to do that.” What people don’t realize is that regardless of whether or not there are others outside of the team who can lend a helping hand, you can never have too much love and support from the people you spend 30+ hours in the pool with.
I hear this all the time - “I just don’t know what to say.” And again, I get it, sometimes you don’t know what advice to give or feel like you will make things worse by bringing it up. But let me be frank - saying or doing something is better than doing nothing. You don’t need to be a psychologist or try to analyze and fix the situation. You just need to let your teammate know that you are there for her.
There were times my teammates knew that I was going through something difficult and no one would ask if I was doing okay or if I needed to talk to someone. Ignorance is hurtful. It doesn’t take a lot to make someone feel supported. If you see that your teammate is having a bad day, sometimes a simple hand squeeze or a smile is enough. Saying something like “hey, I know you’re going through something and I just want to say that I love and support you no matter what” can be enough. Something is better than nothing.
If you see someone struggling, please don’t turn a blind eye and assume that someone else will do it. Obviously if the situation seems serious or extreme, tell a coach or another adult so that they can also help. Synchro can be so demanding psychologically, and if you are also dealing with issues outside the pool it will make it hard to perform at your best. In a team sport that is predominantly female, it’s vital that we support those around us so that your team does feel like a family.
So please, love your teammates, support your teammates, and they will do the same to you.