As a player, no matter the pain, I never stayed down. As a coach, if one of my players stayed down, she was benched for the rest of the game. Suck it up! Be tough! Keep going! The team needs you! As athletes, we are conditioned to play through sickness and pain.
I carried this mentality with me into my professional career. I am embarrassed to admit this now, but as a young professional the thought of taking time off was unfathomable. No matter what the reason was - vacations, weddings, births, etc. - nothing was more important than helping your team.
Many years and two children of my own later, and I now realize that my perspective was ridiculous. Admittedly, I have worked a lot during my "time off," including both of my own maternity leaves. There were many reasons that compelled me to join conference calls while rocking a newborn, but at the root of it was probably my long-standing athletic conditioning to stay strong, play through pain and to persevere despite obstacles. I do not regret my choices; however, I would probably do things differently today.
I have learned that sometimes playing through pain is not the answer. Sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves and our team is to take a break and give ourselves the space and time to decompress or to heal. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Believe it or not, Mental Health Awareness Month has been in place since 1949, though with the challenges brought on by COVID-19, it certainly feels more poignant now than ever.
In recognition of the importance of mental health, this month every NCSA and Reigning Champs team member received an additional PTO day in the form of a Mental Health Day. Sometimes we all need a break, and as a company filled with athletes, sometimes we also need an extra push to take one. One day off will not change the world. It will not make or break the business, and it will not make or break your career. It may help you relax and breathe a little easier and, if nothing else, it will probably be fun. Do not try to be a hero - if you need a day to yourself, please take one. I promise not to bench you, but rather to applaud you.
Lisa Strasman, former Captain of Yale Women's Ice Hockey Team, is President and COO of the Next College Student Athlete (NCSA).