Royce White was a first round draft pick in last season’s NBA draft, but really became known to the casual basketball fan in the NCAA tournament last March when he drove with his family to the games rather than flying with his team due to a major fear of flying that stems from a larger anxiety disorder. He has yet to play in the NBA because the Rockets don’t know what to do about this issue or how to properly handle it. That is not an indictment on them, it is simply the truth of the matter. Royce is hardly the first athlete to suffer from anxiety issues. Several baseball players have been put on the DL with anxiety struggles.
Anxiety is a widely misunderstood disorder. How would I know? I suffer from it myself. It can lead from a simple uneasiness for no apparent reason, to paralyzing fear, and anything in between. In fact, I am a little shaky right now just writing about it and know I will need to take a break to allow myself to calm down to avoid a potential anxiety attack.
In sports, there is an inherit macho-ism surrounding it. Whether it is baseball, basketball, football, or any other, the locker room dynamic creates an environment that frowns on weakness. Mental toughness is a term used to describe the greats, so naturally you would think nobody that has a seemingly irrational fear of being stuck in traffic, sitting on a plane, waiting in line at the bank, could possibly be great in sports, right?
Now I don’t know the specifics of the athletes that suffer from anxiety, those examples were things that trouble me at times, but you know it had to be something similar to Zach Grienke when he was placed on the DL with anxiety, right? And a guy with that can’t be mentally tough, right? All he did the next season was win the AL Cy Young award, and while the team wasn’t in a playoff push, you can’t be the best pitcher in the league without some mental toughness, right?
I am happy to see stories that are understanding of players with anxiety struggles, but for the most part they seem to be just that, understanding, but nothing else. How about moving it forward? Mention that it is not some unusual thing that happens from time to time, but a humanistic disorder that 40 million Americans struggle with.
I am rooting for Royce White to make it to the court and succeed, I always root for Zach Grienke, because guys that publicly acknowledge their anxiety struggles and still compete at the highest levels motivate me, and I am sure others like me, who fight this every day. One of the biggest hurdles I had was accepting I have this and being comfortable sharing my struggles with those around me, I just hope more stories like Royce will make those suffering from anxiety more comfortable in discussing their own struggles and can successfully fight through it just like I do every day.