By Rev. Samuel Williams Jr.,
Special to the AFRO

Naomi Osaka turned the sports world upside down when she withdrew from tennis competition and revealed that she had experienced depression and anxiety since winning her first major at the 2018 U.S. Open, explaining that speaking to the media often makes her nervous. Sadly, America, and the world for that matter, see athletes as flawless athletic machines built expressly for their pleasure. Wait. What? Depression?

Thankfully, a wave of new coaches don’t just deal with physical conditioning and techniques. Today coaches deal with an athlete’s state of mind.

Archbishop Carroll High School head football coach Robert Harris had the foresight to understand that his players were dealing with issues outside the football field, and those issues had to be dealt with. For the needed mentoring, motivating and encouragement, he has turned to Coach Eric Hood since tktktk.

“I do my best to instill the development of a positive mental attitude in those I work with. Knowing the difference in responding and reacting is a major part of that. Self-awareness, self-confidence, and making better choices/decisions are also key,” Hood said. “Not knowing how to deal with adversity properly is at the top of the list. They’re not being aware of how their body language, words, etc. speak volumes is another. Many have bad habits that they aren’t aware of! Not effectively communicating with authority figures is a major concern.”

Hood, in dealing with athletes and their issues, draws from his own personal issues.

“I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. in 1958. I left my beloved city in 1986, and I’ve lived in Maryland since then. I graduated in the top ten percent of my 1976 senior class of Eastern Senior High School. After sitting out the first semester (I wasn’t interested in school), my friends talked me into coming to The American University, in N.W., D.C. I received an academic scholarship but gave it up after two- and one-half years. A full load was too much for me. I constantly got two good and two bad grades. A full load was required to maintain the scholarship, so I voluntarily gave it up. I never learned how to study in high school, despite maintaining a B average since ninth grade.”

In essence, Hood understands the dilemma of a student athlete who is overwhelmed by the responsibility of performing athletically at a high level while at the same time dealing with the rigors of everyday life.

“I believe mental health is important in life—period! What we believe and what and how we think shape who we are and how we act! What I do spills into an athlete’s personal life because I build relationships that go beyond athletics. I’m an exhorter, so motivating, inspiring, and encouraging is what I do best and most naturally,” Hood said.

Mainly, Hood focuses on student athletes in high school.

“Because I’ve experienced them personally, I understand some of the challenges that our younger generation deal with daily. I needed help trying to successfully navigate life. I’ve mentored, primarily teenagers, since 1988, right after I gave my life to Christ Jesus! My 64 years of life experience and the guidance of the Holy Spirit are my qualifications.”

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