“How do you feel?”
This is a question I ask my daughters often. I ask it when they are frustrated and when they aren’t doing something as well as they’d like. Even when they’re doing great but seem a little off, I ask. I make it a point to prioritize their mental health so one day they’ll be able to cut through the opinions of everyone around them to ask themselves the same question.
I don’t personally know the village that raised Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka. Still, as a Black mama on the sidelines, I’m monumentally proud of them. I’m proud of them for advocating for their mental well-being in an industry that capitalizes off Black women’s abilities but turns their back on our humanity.
Both women recently chose to withdraw from competing — Osaka from the French Open and Biles from a round of the Olympic gymnastic games — because of their sports’ psychological impact.
After choosing not to do a post-game press conference in May, Osaka posted to her Instagram explaining that she gets “huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media. I get rally nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can.” Reporters also frequently asked insensitive questions about her race and ethnicity. She went on, “I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences.”