Some folks are attacking Simone Biles for her abrupt departure from the Olympics and some are praising her for being ‘brave’ enough to remove herself from the competition and ‘help’ her team by focusing on her own issues at the moment. The idea that what she’s doing isn’t fun, and that she isn’t in the right mental state, has been a little obvious lately, but what’s quite confusing is that if one isn’t in the right mental state, then the Olympics are probably the wrong place to be.
Simone is not a villain
It’s true that one has to take care of their mental health when it feels needed. The problem here is that Simone’s words sounded more like “me, me, me”, which kind of relegated her team to the background before it was heard that after focusing on herself she THEN thought about the team, and the thought was essentially that “they got this”. She’s not a villain per se, and I might get ripped for saying this, but she’s kind of a selfish individual since the Olympics is about the TEAM, and how the TEAM does as a whole. She had a bad vault, there’s no denying that but stating that the sport wasn’t ‘fun’ is kind of like saying “I’m no longer having fun, I’m just going to leave.” Here are a few other things she might have said that might have been a little easier to take:
- She couldn’t compete due to mental stress: It’s already been said that she had plenty of mental stress heading into the Olympics, so perhaps an evaluation of her mental state and being self-aware would have benefited her, and her team, far more than the act of walking off and quitting. Time to face it folks, this is what she did.
- Her performance suffered due to the high expectations placed on her during competition: It’s true that it’s not easy to deal with stress that’s brought on by high expectations since a lot of people tend to want a person that can do something great to do it all the time.
- When the pressure mounted, she cracked: Yeah, this isn’t something that a lot of athletes are going to admit to, but it’s a definite possibly since after being labeled the GOAT in gymnastics it’s easy to think that the expectations went through the roof. But unfortunately for any athlete, that means they need to be mentally tough as well.
- Had she been physically injured then people wouldn’t have said a word. They would have clucked their tongues a bit and said something along the lines of “That’s too bad, she could have gone all the way.” But since issues with mental health aren’t nearly as visible as issues with physical health, it’s far too easy for people to judge. To her credit, Simone did face this challenge boldly, knowing, or no doubt suspecting, that people would turn on her.
Simone is not a hero either
This is where people are going to get mad since like it or not, we’ve started raising a touchy-feely generation in which competition is still a desire, but it’s no longer the only thing. It’s not bad to shrug off a loss, it’s not bad to quit when you absolutely have to. But to quit something because it’s no longer fun? Or to quit when it gets hard? Process that for a moment and wonder what might happen to a lot of people if they quit when things became hard, and then realize that:
- Without adversity there is no progress: Simone is at the top spot and has likely sacrificed quite a bit to get where she is, as have her teammates. Now think about how she’s bailed on them and made it clear that it’s all about her. Mental health is important, but so is recognizing the need for it BEFORE one heads into an important commitment, such as say….the OLYMPICS.
- It’s hard to relate to this talented young woman: She’s at the top level of her sport, something a lot of us might not fully understand. But it wasn’t fun? It was hard? There are athletes who would come in on crutches if they had to in order to compete in the Olympics. She takes on bad vault and calls it a day. Would other athletes be given the same consideration and be called a ‘hero’? Probably not.
- It’s not necessary to slam and disgrace her, but she doesn’t need to be built up for quitting either: Had she been more careful with her words it’s possible that this would have blown over by now, but as it happens, Simone’s “me, me, me” attitude in an event that was a TEAM sport definitely divided people in a big way. She doesn’t even have to defend herself as there are legions of individuals who are more than happy to justify her quitting so they can project their own feelings onto the matter and vilify and possibly shame those that say otherwise. Hey, vilifying and shaming is nothing new, I can take it. And you know why?
When the going gets tough, quitters make excuses
That’s right, I said it. I don’t think she’s a hero and I don’t think she’s a villain.
No one can take Simone’s talent, skill, and accomplishments away from her and no one should try. But what has already been forfeited is a great deal of faith that she’d built up among the people, and it’s a sad thing to realize since like it or not, Simone is a great gymnast and the best at this time. But she didn’t hurt herself, she didn’t have a sudden panic attack, and she definitely had a chance to keep going if she would have calmed herself down. What happened instead? She got rattled, and she quit.
Maybe there’s more going on than we know about, and maybe she’s been having issues for a while, but if that were the case, then heading to the Olympics, where added stress is a given, wasn’t the right move. Perhaps more mental health aid and regular therapy could help.
The fact that so many people have stood up for her without Simone needing to take up for herself that much is evidence that quitting has become a socially acceptable practice and not is no longer reserved for those that suffer unfortunate injuries or circumstances beyond their control. Now it would appear that quitting is what one does when they’re no longer feeling it.
There is no ‘you’ in a team sport
People are going to talk when someone quits a sport or walks out on their team, that’s a given. But in the Olympics, if someone decides to quit mid-stride without being injured and without any obvious trauma going on, then people are going to talk even louder. The most amusing thing about this is that all Simone had to do was say “I’m sorry”. Apologizing to her country would be a wise idea, but apologizing to her teammates instead of giving the attitude of ‘I’m gonna do me, you got this’ would have been a very smart thing to do. Instead, the speech she did give about her mental health is going to stand as it is, and people are going to keep talking. There are a few reasons why this infuriating some people and inspiring others, such as:
- Quitting on a team is never a great option unless the team unit has fractured or has no hope of pulling together. Simone’s team is, for all intents and purposes, a tightly-knit group, which means that if nothing else, she should have been able to lean on her team for support moving forward.
- If there was mental trauma that Simone was dealing with then heading to the Olympics should have been a lower priority. I know how that sounds, as this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for greatness that a lot of us will never see. But instead of ignoring the problem and going anyway, Simone probably should have had the idea to take care of her mental health BEFORE heading to the Olympics to quit on her team. There’s a funny thing about pressure, it makes some people focus up and zero in on their goals, and it causes others to crumble. It’s fair to say that the majority of us don’t know what’s going on in Simone’s life, but it’s also fair to say that a lot of us know what pressure feels like, and we know where our limits are after breaking a few times or being forced to focus for too long. The point? If Simone knew there was something going on before the Olympics she should have done her best to deal with, or stayed home. Or, at the very least, she could have reached out to someone instead of making the final decision to quit on a team that might very well have won gold. It’s true, her team doesn’t owe anyone a gold medal, but getting to such a grand stage and quitting without so much as an apology is bad form, which, as a gymnast, she should have realized.
- Mental health is indeed important, but so is the idea of knowing what a person can handle. She had a team to help her, to lean on, to keep her focused, and instead of trusting in them and depending on them, as they did her, Simone decided it was best to remove herself from the equation for their betterment. Yeah, that might have sounded great in her head, but the backlash is making it clear that it might not have been the wisest course. Thank goodness for the many people who are willing to coddle her and tell her it’s okay to just quit.
Right now it’s likely that Simone is getting more attention than she might have received had she stayed and won a gold medal, so that’s good news for her, kind of. But as to the rest of it, well, that’s debatable since she might get the rest and help she needs, but one can imagine that people aren’t going to let up on her anytime soon, but there will be plenty of her supporters to defend her as well.