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  • Colin Jonov

Mental Fortitude: The Importance of Psychology in Athletics

I was cut from the Buffalo Bills on Sunday May 12th of 2019. That marked the last time I would ever wear a football helmet. Albeit a very short four days in Buffalo, I could call myself an NFL athlete for four days. As long as I can remember, all I ever wanted was to be a professional athlete. I never had a backup plan, only the NFL. Sure, I went to top Universities and kept my grades up, but none of that ever mattered to me. I placed all my value in being an athlete at the highest level. Then, on May 12th, all of that ended. The only thing in the world I felt good at was gone and for all better purposes never coming back. As I sat in the locker staring at the ground, the only thing I thought to myself was “Now what?”

My chances of making the Buffalo Bills roster were slim to none. If you had asked anyone other than me or my wife, they would have said there was zero chance I would make the team and that I was living a fairy tale. Somewhere, subconsciously, I probably knew that too. However, none of that mattered because in that moment it was real to me. In my mind, I was going to be the next great story on ESPN. I was going to be the next Malcolm Butler. The nobody-tryout-guy to the guy making the game winning interception in the Super Bowl. That was my reality. Then, to what many would call the inevitable, I was cut, and that dream was gone. My whole life I was an athlete, a football player. That’s all I ever talked about with my friends and family. It was my whole identity. When that was stripped from me, I felt lost and worthless. I had no understanding of how to manage my emotions and mental health.

Now, over three years later, I thank God I never made it to the NFL. I believe with every fiber of my being that everything happens for a reason. Being cut forced me to learn how to take care of myself mentally and emotionally. When I look back over that time of my life, I realize how unhealthy I really was. I now recognize how necessary it was for my playing career to end for my long-term growth as a person. Mental and emotional health has become my “Now what?”

The reality is, there’s an infinite number of hurdles that athletes will face over the course of their careers. Looking back at my own career, I struggled with lack of confidence, injuries, position battles, insecurities, jealousy and countless others. I suffered several significant physical injuries. I fractured three vertebrae in my back, broke my leg, tore my ACL, had wrist surgery, and suffered numerous concussions over the course of my career. Each injury presented a new mental challenge, which proved to be more difficult than the physical. Eventually I learned to use “playbooks” to address each adversity in my mind. One of our many deficiencies as humans is severely underestimating how capable our minds are. We rarely get to see our psychological potential because we don’t actively train our psyche. We lift, run, and work on technique, but we rarely take care of what’s most important, our mental health.

I feel a dire need to help as many people as I can learn how to deal with that voice in their head. Because of this desire to help others, I have recently made the decision to start my own company to equip athletes with the necessary skillset to overcome the psychological and emotional adversities that accompany the journey of being an athlete.

The landscape for mental health is rapidly changing. Our environment today is already drastically different than it was three plus years ago. Just in the past couple of years, we have already seen the devastating effects of the growth of social media and a global pandemic, just to name a few. The discussion on mental health isn’t going anywhere. It’s only going to become more prevalent in our society.

We are moving in the right direction. Athletes are starting to open up about their struggles. I applaud them because it is not easy to discuss things that are personal. I envision we will see more and more come forward as we evolve through time. However, we need to move past the discussion and move towards the solution. We shouldn’t have to search for help. It should be served on a platter right in front of us.

I am excited to embark on this new journey in life and look forward to impacting as many lives as I can.

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