Stress Fractures

Professional sports people are finally catching up to the rest of the world when it comes to the concept of stress leave. It seems the Poms can no longer handle a bit of spirited competition with their fragile emotional psyches preventing them from partaking in competition with the Australians. Marcus Trescothick has just pulled out of the Ashes tour due to stress related illness. His trip home came close on the heels of British Rugby League half back Sean Long’s decision to give the Tri-Nations tour the flick heading home due to “emotional fatigue and exhaustion” – at least he had the excuse that his wife is heavily pregnant and about to give birth. These poor fragile sports stars. How tough life must be for them with their million dollar salaries and their fancy cars, fast women and rigorous playing schedule. Yes that’s right folks. Sport is hard work. All that running around is enough to give you heaps of emotional baggage. And the constant sledging must surely take a toll on your soul. Joel is right, sarcasm can be hard to pick up in text – so here’s an emoticon :P. When will these sports stars stop being so precious. Despite the pressure of having a nation’s hopes and expectations riding on your shoulders, at the end of the day sport is only a game. While people may not be prepared to forgive and forget when a player cracks on the field, and is sent off, possibly costing his team the World Cup (ala David Beckham) – the nature of sport means that new targets will constantly present themselves (ala Christiano Ronaldo – playing right wing for Man Utd is a position fraught with danger). You’d think Trescothick and co were trying to solve the North Korean nuclear crisis, or tackling climate change, or trying to work out exactly how they get the shells onto a smartie (which I’m researching for a later blog). At the end of the day these sports people are meant to be competitive mentally and physically – it’s not a matter of getting out of the kitchen when you can’t hack the heat – you shouldn’t be there to begin with. How can a player get to a position where he’s representing his country and bail when it all gets too hard? All the talk about how tough it is being in the spotlight, having to be a role model, training too hard – it’s all part and parcel of being a sports star – the cushy day job and good pay don’t come for nothing… at the end of the day these players have pretty much buggered up their team’s chances before a ball is bowled, or the whistle blows – so good on ‘em for that.

The “it’s only a game” perspective is in danger of completely falling by the wayside – Shaun Berrigan is set to miss being best man at his brother’s wedding just to play 80 minutes of football. I’ve never heard anything more absurd. 92% of people who responded to the Courier Mail survey said Shaun should miss the game. Coach Ricky Stuart said no. Coach Ricky Stuart is in danger of becoming Phil Gould’s successor as the most annoying person in Rugby League.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

20 thoughts on “Stress Fractures”

  1. In the league? Come on mate, give Gus a bit more credit than that. He is at the very least the most annoying person in Australia.

  2. Hmmm all the news reports i have heard said that Berrigan was going to miss the game not the other way round.

    Mind you i don’t follow ruby league all that much. i could be wrong.

  3. Playing sport is a job for a professional sports person. We shouldn’t be surprised that they suffer stress in the same manner as any other worker may – whether they wear a white or blue collared shirt.

    It is quite insensitive to say they should be able to endure it if they play at that level. As an example, the same argument would lead us to say that defence force personell who committ suicide due to barstardisation have no one to blame but themselves, as they should never have taken a job where they knew it could occur. There are many of tragic examples just like this. These are just some of the ones we hear about. Politics is another job that has produced its fair share of high profile mental breakdowns leading to suicides and attempted suicides.

    Suicide is the most extreme example – but statistics show much of it is related to job stress.

    Mental illness needs to be treated seriously, and like any other illness it needs serious medical treatment. Having lived with someone with a stress related illness caused in the course of their employment I find it very insensitive to say that they just can’t hack it.

    We all need to change our attitudes when it comes to mental illness. I don’t think Trescothick is an isolated example.

  4. You don’t start playing professional sport if you hate it. You play because you enjoy it and you’re good at it. No one is forcing millions of dollars down Trescothick’s throat – he’s in the team because he’s among the best batsmen in England. If he can’t mentally handle it he should never have put himself up for selection – now he’s been flown over, and accommodated for two weeks at great cost and his leaving will disrupt the English squad and potentially further damage their chances of claiming the Ashes. At the end of the day – he’s being paid to play cricket. Sure he’s allowed to be depressed – but he’s not claiming depression, he’s claiming stress.

  5. Politics is actually a stressful job – I can understand the breakdowns there. You’re dealing with issues that matter to lots of people in a real way – not issues of whether your team is better than your neighbours. While I love sport – and the associated tribalism – walking out into the sporting arena is not the same as traversing the corridors of power.

  6. Perhaps if someone is suffering a workplace related illness they should change occupations – or workplaces. I have a problem with Trescothick suggesting that playing cricket is stressful because I don’t believe that to be true. Sure it might be intimidating to have Brett Lee bowling 160Kph balls at your head – but that’s what you have a plank of wood for – to hit it. And at the end of the day, if he gets you out, you still go home with your paycheck – and your position is guaranteed for a whole year (as a contracted player). When you’re not batting (roughly 1/22nd of the total game time (depending on variables)) you’re either sitting in the shed with your team or standing in a big grassy field. Oh woe is him. The pressure, oh the pressure.

    So anonymous – at least have the guts to name yourself – although then you couldn’t post vaguely connected anecdotes referring to your housemate because they’d be identifiable. If that’s a concern then perhaps you shouldn’t be posting about them, even anonymously.

  7. Wow anonymous – while I may have been prima facie dismissive of your post – I’ve spent quite a bit of time responding to different facets…

    If you’re comparing bastardisation in the military to a bit of sledging in the international sporting arena then you don’t deserve to be wielding your intellect in public. They’re completely different – there are rules in place to protect people from bastardisation which make it illegal in the workplace – sledging, while not officially endorsed by governing bodies is also sanctioned by the fact that it’s not expressly ruled out. One can expect to face sledging on the cricket field as an occupational hazard. Bastardisation is severly frowned upon in the military.

    The lifestyle, risks and stresses associated with being a politician or member of the armed forces can’t really be compared with those of a professional sportsperson.

    Also – the next time you put words in my mouth – consider the fact that I’ll probably respond, and the words that come out of my mouth – or from my fingers (with a keyboard) are likely to be more hurtful and vitriolic than those that you make up – I did not imply, infer, or express anything to do with people in normal workplaces suggesting that those suffering from “stress related illness caused in the course of their employment…just can’t hack it.”

  8. anon. I agree that mental illness needs to be taken more seriously but I also think people with ‘mental illness’ also need to spare thought for the members of the population who battle with depression and don’t medicate so don’t have a label.

    These are the people in my mind who are the real sufferers. People who have labeled depression are the ones who get the care and attention while those who suffer quietly are left to cope on their own. I think sometimes a medication and a label is just a convenience.

  9. clearly you don’t realise that this is my blog not yours and if you insult me – particularly anonymously, I’ll delete you.

  10. Yes people this is called censorship – anonymous suggested I had growing up to do – and ironically I deleted their post in a slightly juvenile response…

    I’m not opposed to people disagreeing with me – in fact I’d rather people comment if they disagree because discourse is encouraging and interesting.

    However, I have the decency to put my name to my opinions and expect people who disagree to show the same courtesy rather than sniping anonymously.

  11. It doesn’t matter what job you do, stress can be brought on by anything. Emotional related illnesses like depression can be completely unrelated to your job, but be compounded by it. These sorts of illnesses are caused by a breakdown in communication between brain cells and have nothing to do with people being precious or having to deal with the “stress” that their job may or may not bring them.

    It may be referred to as an emotional illness but depression and the like (as was suffered by that pommy cricketer) is unrelated to emotions. Emotions simply compound the issue, and the depression can accentuate emotions experienced. People with these illnesses aren’t always thinking right. It’s not their “hard life” which wears down on them, it’s the illness itself.

    Yes, Tresothick handled it badly. I’m not defending him by any means. But it isn’t his fault that he’s suffering the illness or that he’s unable to play- it’s simply his fault that he left it this late to make the decision. Don’t ever denigrate mental illness or the effects of it on a person. Yes, if he makes a bad decision then by all means get stuck into him for being insensitive to the rest of the squad. But do not say it’s just a bunch of pitiable emotional rubbish, because it’s not. If it was just emotions, then you’re right, they do have the high life.

    Besides, since when does money, women and cars equal the perfect life?

  12. People need to stop putting words in my mouth. I didn’t say it was the perfect life – my points regarding Trescothick are as follows:

    1. There is a certain expectation of stress involved in playing international cricket – fan, team and selector’s expectations place a burden of sorts on the player. The prospect of facing Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson or Shuan Tait with a hard leather ball would scare the crap out of me.
    2. Cricket has an acknowledged psyhcological component and players need to be able to deal with the game mentally.
    3.It follows that international cricketers should be expected to cope with these expectations – and their selection should come as a result of being fit to meet these criteria.
    4. Along with selection comes a huge financial and lifestyle bonus.
    5. Playing professional sport is “playing” – it’s a game. Attaching any more significance to a game – to the level that players are too stressed to play, or put playing ahead of the weddings of family members is losing perspective on that fact.
    6. I found it hard to believe that Trescothick’s issues are related to his “work” – I’d say depression is more likely. I’d also suggest Trescothick should not have been picked to play in the state he is in.

  13. you realise, the stress for trescothick is related to being away from his family, as his wife suffers from a mental illness. And its not actually just the cricket that stresses him out.

  14. So his wife may be suffering depression – and he may not like being away from her… but I didn’t hear the Trescothick family complaining about their matching BMWs.

    And the fact is – he could have pulled out before the tour began. It was selfish of him to take the slot to begin with – and the fact remains – he’s got his own acknowledged “stress related” issues that are based on the rigorous work schedule he’s expected to endure.

  15. I was speaking figuratively when I said the ‘perfect life’, Nathan. If everyone is misunderstanding you so much, perhaps there is a common denominator here? :P

    What I meant when I made the perfect life comment was that you were acting like he had nothing to worry or stress about.

    And I don’t see how a “work related” illness can’t also be related to depression.

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