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I assume the quarantine aspect of life under Covid-19 has been hard for most of us. But ultimately, I’m still getting into my own bed at night. I can go to a park. I can order takeout from familiar restaurants I love. My life’s a little more comfortable from a mental health perspective than living in a hotel for a month. And Bria Felicien’s article at The Equalizer did a great job of highlighting the mental health challenges that players are going through right now at the NWSL Challenge Cup.
Those issues have been immediately apparent directly on the field. Houston Dash manager James Clarkson admitted following his team’s defeat to the Washington Spirit that the Dash were mentally exhausted. OL Reign attacker Bethany Balcer had to be substituted after suffering a panic attack during a match. But those are just the issues in the public eye. We can’t even begin to unpack what’s going on behind the scenes.
Honestly, I still don’t know if the NWSL Challenge Cup should exist. The players have stayed safe from Covid so far, and the quality of play has been high, but it’s pretty clearly taking an emotional toll on people for minimal benefit. Check out this piece by the wonderful Zoë Hayden for more on America’s bizarre need to sacrifice athletes (and many of us) to the Capitalism Gods.
But despite all this crap, players are trying their best to keep things feeling as normal as possible. By posting.
And listen, I understand that doing good content online is not an indicator that things are going fine for you emotionally. I would know, as someone who has over 18,000 posts on Vox Media properties while consistently battling mental illness. But it can be a good way of getting yourself through some problems that cannot be solved immediately, such as being cooped up in a hotel.
Here’s a quick sampling of some stuff I enjoyed from player and staff social media over the past couple days:
And if you’ve got a favorite player who you don’t follow on Instagram yet, I recommend looking them up. It’s better than 50-50 that they’re posting great stuff.
Sorry there’s not a coherent overarching narrative to this story. I don’t have anything profound to say about mental health or America’s mishandling of the pandemic. All I have for you today is a series of relatively disconnected thoughts of how both NWSL players and the rest of us are trying to deal with a problem that we have essentially zero control over.
Take care of yourself, support female athletes, and maybe watch a funny Instagram story to make yourself feel better for 30 seconds.