The Hidden Opponent is the newest on-campus student organization focused on student athlete mental health. The sand spoke to Isabella Espino (’24), president of the organization and member of the women’s rowing team, to learn more about her mission and plans.
Q: What does “The Hidden Adversary” mean?
A: The hidden opponent is the mental block that athletes face and prevents them from becoming the best athlete they can be. It can range from anxiety about not having a good practice to something more extreme like the depression that athletes face due to the stress of their schedule and not having time to take care of. themselves.
The purpose of The Hidden Opponent is to raise awareness and say that it’s okay to have a day when you don’t feel your best in training and it’s okay for athletes not to be. the strongest they can be at all times.
Q: Can you tell us more about the history of this organization?
A: The Hidden Opponent was founded by USC Division I volleyball player Victoria Garrick, who is now a social media influencer and mental health advocate. She started the organization after her own journey as a student athlete, where she struggled with eating disorders and major depression. She started this to hopefully create an outlet where athletes can find resources on campus.
I’m part of the Campus Captains Program, a group of about 500 student-athletes across the country. It’s a huge support system from leaders trying to raise awareness. Because Rollins is a Division II school, I am part of the Division II cohort. We have different meetings with psychologists where we learn what we can do to help. Obviously we are not trained professionals, so we are not here to give advice, but we are here to provide the resources and help people the best that we can.
Q: How did the hidden adversary find their way to Rollins?
A: I am super passionate about mental health. In our team, our coach has always made it very clear that mental health is important. We can’t use it as an excuse not to go to training or something, but sometimes your schedule gets overwhelming. It’s okay to admit that, and it’s okay not to be your best in training, as long as you give it your all.
It is very important for me and my teammates. I noticed Victoria Garrick on social media and followed the organization last semester to see what she was doing.
I loved their mission and their message, so I took a picture and applied to be Campus Captain with my VP Bess Prim (’24). We both understood that and we are very happy that there is interest in the club. Hopefully, this becomes a place where people feel comfortable talking about things that maybe seem a bit stigmatized, and they become more of a conversation here on campus.
Q: Is there personal significance to this business for you?
A: I have been an athlete since I was six years old. I have always been involved in sports, I have always had so much energy, it was always fun. And then it got to a point where the coaches got a little bit harder, they expected more of you, and they started commenting on your body and it became a lot of pressure.
I felt like I was put in a box where I was an athlete and practice was the most important thing. If I was not doing well in school, I still had to persevere to be able to train because my coach and my teammates needed me there.
Then the final year of high school arrived and COVID-19 struck. It was a weight on my shoulders – that I didn’t have to train, that I didn’t have to compete. But then I realized it shouldn’t be like this. My coaches in high school were great, and it wasn’t their fault for that negative headspace. I wanted to be the best so badly that I started worrying about losing weight and going to the gym for an extra hour and all that.
Then I got to college and kept doing my best, but there is always someone who can be one step ahead of you. It was important for me to realize that I am here because my coach wants me to be here for a reason. I’m an asset to the team, and it changed my mindset to ‘I don’t need to be here, I can be here’. I work hard to earn my place and deserve to be here. I have learned to look at the practices in a different light and it is such a blessing.
Q: What is your goal for The Hidden Opponent?
A: Our student-athlete president Sam Fulton (’22) of the men’s lacrosse team said it best, “All I want is the athletes and other students at Rollins to take an hour. or two for themselves every week.
If anything, I want them to take this. You deserve the space to decompress and take care of yourself, whatever that may sound like to you. Fill your own cup, as you cannot give from an empty cup. Especially for athletes, who have such a crazy schedule, taking time for yourself and realizing that you are doing a great job is so important. If no one has told you that they are proud of you, say so for yourself. My main goal is for people to have the hidden opponent as a space where they don’t suffer on their own. I hope they see it through our community.
Q: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
A: The Hidden Opponent is not just for student athletes. It is obviously for them, but it is really for all those who are passionate about sports culture. If you are not a student athlete, you can join us. We want people who are passionate about mental health. If you were an athlete in high school or at any point in your life, we want you to be there too. We want to hear your story if you are comfortable telling us your struggles. We want to be a space for you to feel safe and for this topic to become more of a conversation on campus.