Review: ‘The Price She Pays’ offers solutions to mental health ‘crisis’ in women’s sports

When Katie Steele and Tiffany Brown began conducting interviews for their book, “The Price She Pays,” they expected to hear stories of athletes facing internal struggles, external pressures, mistreatment and abuse.

As licensed therapists with direct and long-standing connections to the world of sport, it was no secret to either of us that the journey of women in sport can be fraught with trauma.

What Steele and Brown didn’t expect was the sheer volume of shared experiences and clarity of solutions they could offer in the book, which examines what the authors describe as a mental health “crisis” in women’s sports from the youth level. until the end. pros “The Price She Pays” opens next Tuesday, with a book signing event scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 27 at Powell’s Books in Beaverton.

The Oregonian/OregonLive received an advance copy for review.

“Part of what we are trained to do with our background and the type of therapy we employ is to look at the entire system,” Brown told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “If you come to therapy and you’re dealing with depression, we’re not going to just focus on one or two things differently to improve your depression. We’re also looking at what’s going on around it and what’s going on within all the systems around it that make that depression make sense, and what we can do differently within those systems.

“For there to be change in women’s sports, there has to be change within the systems under which women operate and compete.”

As women’s sports continue their rapid rise in popularity and financial viability, Steele and Brown believe the growth of women’s sports must occur simultaneously with a solutions-based approach to mental health. If women are to be adequately supported in the sporting space, then parents, fans, coaches, media and institutional leaders have a responsibility to reframe their thinking about the positive and negative impacts of sport on the well-being of women and girls.

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Body confidence and acceptance, creating healthy relationships between players and coaches, parenting with patience and emotional sensitivity, identifying mental health issues or potential mistreatment and abuse – those are just a few of the topics. important topics that “The Price She Pays” addresses.

“It’s essential,” Steele said. “We need to lift the veil, because if we don’t know what we don’t know, then it’s difficult to create change. We needed to lift the veil so people could have a full understanding of what is happening in women’s sports and create solutions. We don’t want to simply name the problem. We can know that there are things that aren’t working and also know that there are things that are, and there are athletes, programs and coaches that celebrate female athletes and elevate them to where they deserve to be. A big part of mental health is coexistence. It can be everything at once.”

The book is sometimes not easy to read, but it shouldn’t be. What is being faced is systemic and – for women or those with women in their lives who play or used to play sports – validating in several heartbreaking ways.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, or a cry into the void: Steele and Brown wanted to clarify these problems and create as much or more space in these pages for tangible, nuanced and thoughtful solutions.

“We wouldn’t have done this if we didn’t believe change was possible,” Steele said. “We wouldn’t have done this if we didn’t love sports. These sports are amazing and the athletes that participate are amazing. “We want to see all of that rise and we believe in the possibility of that happening.”

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Steele is a former track and field athlete at the University of Oregon and co-founder of Thrive Mental Health along with the Athletes Mental Health Foundation. Brown is a senior UO faculty member in the marriage and family therapy graduate program and provides mental health education for coaches and staff. She co-wrote “The Price She Pays” with journalist Erin Strout.

The opening pages include Steele’s account of her motivation to pursue a career in the mental health space: her personal story of trauma during her time in the UO athletics program, which she says included numerous pressures that affected her body image and overall mental health, along with alleged mismanagement of medications prescribed to her by a doctor.

“The Price She Pays” makes it clear that all trauma (“Big T and Little T,” as it is called in the book) is valid. All of this is a reason for systemic change, whether it’s the fourth-grade girl who quits basketball because she doesn’t feel comfortable in her uniform or the widespread failures of teams and institutions to protect professional female soccer players from abuse, as described in the Yates report in 2022.

Leagues, teams, coaches and parents can no longer operate half-heartedly and pat themselves on the back when it comes to addressing mental health, Steele and Brown explain. They need to take a hard look at these issues, listen to athletes, and act on solutions that put their well-being first.

“It’s a business,” Brown said. “And so, like any other business, we need to look at how ’employees’ are treated and what the expectations are. “Unfortunately, in sports, and especially women’s sports, there aren’t a lot of clear expectations in terms of how women are treated.”

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Those in the sports world will need to understand that implementing clear solutions to mental health challenges is just as important, if not more so, than winning, Steele explained. And that both are inextricably linked.

“Most teams, most established leagues and programs, know that mental health needs to be mentioned,” Steele said. “The NCAA just implemented ‘best practices’ for mental health. And we’re like best practices? It’s 2024. These should be mandatory. There is a box that sports teams, leagues and institutions are checking when it really needs to be integrated. “We need to make athlete well-being as important as winning, and we need to quantify it.”

“The Price She Pays” is simple, instructive, heartbreaking, and persistently inclusive. It should be required reading for those who love, value, or have a special interest in sports. It is available for pre-order through powell’s, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and in other places.

The book signing event with Steele and Brown begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 27 at Powell’s Beaverton location, 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd.

— Ryan Clarke covers the Oregon Ducks and Big Ten Conference for The Oregonian and co-hosts the Soccer Made in Portland and Ducks Confidential podcasts. He can be contacted at [email protected] either @RyanTClarke.

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