Penn State football kicker Joey Julius was absent from his team during spring football of 2016 and throughout the summer. Many people didn’t know why he was absent from the team and initially Julius was apprehensive to say why. Now, however Julius has come forward and stated that he was absent from the team because he was admitted into the McCallum place on May 9th for an eating disorder.
Julius stated that Penn State team physicians started to notice an increase in his weight. In addition to an increase in his weight, team physicians noticed that Julius had become depressed and was suffering from anxiety. The coaches and team physicians immediately began to seek help for Julius which resulted in him being admitted into the McCallum place where he was officially diagnosed with Binge-Eating Disorder. A binge eating disorder is when someone loses control over their food intake and begins to eat large amounts of food at one time, even if they aren’t hungry. Julius stated that he believes he has suffered from this disorder for the last 11yrs of his life although it was originally believed that he showed signs of bulimia through stints of purging from extreme anxiety.
Julius has not only struggled with extreme anxiety, but he has also struggled with extreme depression. He stated, “I was always calling myself fat, disgusting, lazy and ugly.” We often hear about women who suffer from a binge eating disorder, but we rarely hear about men suffering from this disorder. Julius indicated that he believes that other men struggle with eating disorders but are too ashamed to admit it. Julius stated that he too was one of those guys that was too ashamed to admit he had a problem.
Sports and football specifically have for years taught our athletes to be tough and not to show weakness. I too was one of those coaches and parents who always taught my athletes and children not to ever show weakness. Teaching this mindset has caused many of our athletes to develop into “one of those guys.” However, I now believe that teaching the “no weakness” mindset has more disadvantages that advantages especially at the youth level.
Most youth and even many adult athletes are unable to distinguish between being tough when it calls for being tough and knowing when they need serious help. Whether it’s physical, mental or emotional pain; we can’t continue to teach our athletes to hide it for the sake of being tough.
Julius binge eating disorder could have killed him. The concussion epidemic in the NFL, College Football and High School Football is example of athletes hiding physical pain that could eventually lead to death. Additionally, you can’t turn on the radio or T.V without hearing about an athlete struggling with severe depression or some form of anxiety. We must remember that something that’s severe started off small but grew worse because it was never addressed.
Communication is the key. Start having honest and open dialogue with your athletes and children about what struggles they’re having and determine if you can provide the help they need or if they need professional help. Don’t allow machoness and a big ego cause you to turn your athletes and children into “one of those guys” because it could kill them.