Performance Pressure: Mental Health Parallels in Music and Pro Sports

Photo: Music and Sports
When I took my Sports Psychology course back in 1988, I didn’t have the personal and professional life experience to really understand its applications. Fast forward 35 years, and pro sports have become a $83B market in North America alone.

Ultimately, it’s about entertainment. So is live music.

When you think about mental health, have you ever considered the parallels between professional sports and the music industry?

Both professional athletes and touring musicians (and crew) face intense pressure to perform at their peak, night after night, day after day, whether it’s on the field or on stage. With almost daily travel.

Both groups often experience high levels of stress due to the demanding schedules, constant travel, and expectations from fans, coaches, or managers. Often the spotlight and media requirements are way beyond their comfort level.

Injuries are a common concern for both athletes and musicians, which can have significant impacts on their physical and mental well-being, and ability to do the job. And many people are counting on them to do that job, without pause, for long periods of time.

Both professions involve periods of intense focus and concentration and highs, followed by periods of downtime, loneliness, and exhaustion, which can lead to challenges in maintaining mental health balance.

Many are young adults (or even adolescents), not quite equipped to deal with all the pressures and responsibilities of adulthood. Did you know that, neurologically, we’re not fully developed until age 25?

Both athletes and musicians may struggle with issues such as performance anxiety, self-doubt, and burnout, as they strive to meet the expectations placed upon them.

The lifestyle of constant scrutiny and public attention can contribute to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and mental health struggles for both groups.

The transition out of the spotlight can be difficult for both athletes and musicians, leading to identity crises, depression, and other mental health challenges.

The next time you’re quick to judge your favourite (or not-so-favourite) performer, keep in mind their humanness and how tough it might be to maintain their performance.
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