We mere mortals will never fully understand the feeling of being a professional sportsman/woman and dealing with day to day life in the spotlight. Football players seem to deal with the pressure well and don’t let performing in front of thousands of people each week effect them. However in the past few weeks and months, retired players have shown that life after football is anything but easy. If you were to quit your job, you may react differently to others, but what comes with being a professional footballer is hard to replace.
Anybody; like myself; who has not suffered with any mental issues such as depression will always find it difficult to fully understand exactly what it involves to be in that state of mind but it is becoming more in vogue than ever now and the seriousness of the situations are being explained.
There is no confirmation that any type of depression was involved in the tragic and shocking death of Wales manager Gary Speed towards the end of last year but since then more and more ex players have broken their silence regarding mental problems. Plenty of people are still confused about the Speed situation and a lot has yet to be cleared up to allow his supporters to understand exactly what brought him to end his own life.
Over the weekend, another footballing legend Dean Windass discussed how he attempted to kill himself due to pressures of life after football.
“I have cried every day for the last two years since retiring,” Windass told The People. “People outside football think we have it all. But I was in a hole that I honestly didn’t know how to get out of.
“Just over a week ago I hit rock-bottom and decided to end it all. I first took an overdose and when that didn’t work tried to hang myself. I felt so alone and believed I had nothing to live for.
“I need to sort myself out which is why I’m speaking out now.”
He added: “People have this image of me as this big strong man who can take anything life throws at him. But I’m not ashamed to say I wanted to end it after a string of setbacks. I knew I’d been a fool but I couldn’t shake off the depression at feeling what a failure I’d become.”
So, since Windass retired he has been unable to cope with life, something that may be becoming more common in the English football. It seems that football fans struggle to understand how hard it is to cope with a lifestyle that changes dramatically so quickly. For anyone to admit that they are suffering from this type of problem is always sad, but when it is one of your sporting heroes it is tough to watch.
The part-time Soccer Saturday pundit enjoyed a long career, that included a promotion winning goal for his boyhood club Hull City that sent them to the Premier League for the first time and it seems the highs have been hard to replicate since then.
Freddie Flintoff: Hidden Side Of Sport was on BBC1 last week and gave a heartfelt insight into how he and his fellow sportsman went through a similar situation as Windass while he was the England cricket captain. The stories that he spoke about and the way he was talking about them was so intriguing to watch and brought the situation home to a level where everyone could understand.
Since Speed’s tragic death the subject of depression in sport has finally been promoted and it is now a hot topic that will hopefully give the fans a chance to understand exactly why their idols may be dragged into doing some terrible things. If you get the chance, make sure you watch Freddie Flintoff’s show on BBCiplayer and always seek help when needed.
Do you really understand about depression in sport? What does it mean to you? Let me know on Twitter: @Brad_Pinard