Resiliency in Athletes: Of Ghosts and Gaslights

A few weeks ago a thought popped into my head “I wonder whatever happened to that article I pitched to … ?” So I hit the command/F keys and searched my email for said inquiry.

Found it.

Sent September 16, 2020. Opened September 16, 2020. No response – and I guess I forgot to follow up as well – as it goes with writing and inquiring. Lots of no’s. Even from those I’ve worked with or written for in the past. It’s a tough gig sometimes and the pay isn’t great, often there’s no pay at all.

For a second I thought “I’ve been ghosted.”

Ghosts and Gaslights

By the time this post runs, these two terms will already be gone – you know, like ghosts – without warning and because it’s your fault and you are crazy. If you don’t know already ghosting refers to a person who “cuts off all communication with their friends or the person they are dating with zero warning or notice.” No texts, no phone calls, blocked on social. Gone. Like a ghost.

Gaslighting is a term used for someone who uses manipulation or intimidation to make you think what you know about a situation is wrong, that you are imagining things about a relationship or situation and to make you doubt yourself, your relationships, your situation – your sanity. It’s abuse.

So, who cares about these words and why do they matter for sports?

Social Terms Aren’t Always Relevant in Every Situation

Example 1: Sometimes I misplace my keys. I know where I put them. I KNOW where I put them, someone else MUST have moved them. The song and dance begins as to who moved them, why it couldn’t have possibly been me who moved them and at some point my husband says “maybe you put them somewhere else.” It’s all fun and games and just as the tension hits a peak, someone other than me finds my keys – in my closet, or still in my car or … you get the picture.

What my husband gaslighting me? Nope. It’s life. I’m not crazy, I am over booked some days though and things get missed. I own that (sometimes).

Example 2: Sometimes, I pitch an article to a publisher and editor or someone who needs content. I’ve worked with many editors and people who need writing. Recently, I’ve pitched a few articles on mental health and athletes, research ideas to people who asked me for research ideas and I’ve been working hard to sell journals to sports teams, coaches, athletes, organizations looking to build culture through journaling.

I’ve pitched and had more conversations – with people I know and have worked with – than I can track or remember. Most of them don’t get back to me and most of the time I forget I’ve even pitched because in the writing business there are a lot of no’s. A LOT.

So is the publishing industry ghosting me? Nope. There are some jobs and teams (most of them actually) where the purpose is to get as many inquiries (or tryouts) in order to find the best content (or athlete) for the gig. It’s simple.

Unfortunately, these terms aren’t necessarily simple concepts and when we put them in a context that is simple, it complicates things.

Don’t Complicate Simple Things

I’m not saying ghosts and gaslights don’t appear in sports. We’ve seen entire industries shaken because of the manipulation, abuse and trauma caused by adults who convinced families and athletes that they are crazy because of an abusive, manipulative adult who has used their power in the worst ways imaginable.

We know coaches and sports teams regularly have to make decisions that will cause people to think they are ghosted or forgotten about (this happens to me every day in my business). Sometimes I get my feelings hurt and it stops me from pursuing things I love or makes me place that next email in “draft” for a few days while I muster up my courage again to hit send.

Most times I remember that I’m not the only person pitching ideas or selling content. And that if I really want to share my message, I can.

A Side Note on Resilience

This week I spoke to a parent with a child in sports. They shared an very difficult experience their child was going through on their team. “As a parent, a coach and as a person with experience in psychology, what would advice would you give in this situation?”

I get calls, texts and have conversations like this often. As long as there isn’t any physical harm or emotion/mental abuse (because if there is, GET OUT, no sport is worth that bargain with your child) I respond like this:

  • AS A PARENT: You are a consumer. You are paying money in exchange for a product. Yes, a product. Not your kids hopes and dreams, not a D1 scholarship, not an Olympic gold medal. The product is there to work for you, your family and your kid. If you are getting fed promises about the things above and you want to pay for that, that is on you. Otherwise, be very clear about what you are spending your money on. If it works for you, your kid and your family – then let’s go.
  • AS A COACH: Ideally, directors and coaches are doing their best to create the best product for your child. But they are human. Things get missed. If a club or a team has multiple groups and has to manage all those groups, their staff, a facility, all business related issues (e.g.budget, fundraising, uniforms, purchases), programs, practice planning, athletes, etc. they may have the best intentions and will still miss things. Again, aside from physical/mental /emotional abuse, go back to “what am I paying for?”
  • AS AN M.S. IN CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY: I always encourage parents to speak with their child about these things. How much pain is this situation causing your child? Is the situation a hard lesson or is it abuse? Has your child’s demeanor or personality changed because of this situation? Does your child want to quit their sport because of this situation? If the situation is more than a “sports lesson” assess the situation and make the best decision based on what you learn from your child. No sport, no scholarship is worth mental, emotional, physical abuse or harm.

Look, there are lessons to be learned in sports. You know your child best. Try to help them become the hero of their story. They have choices, you have choices. They have a voice, you have a voice.


Priscilla Tallman is a freelance writer in Phoenix, AZ. She has an undergraduate degree in Psychology and graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. She has written for FloVolleyball, Volleyball Magazine, The Art of Coaching Volleyball, Sweat RX, Gorgo Fitness Magazine, CrossFit Fury, The CrossFit Games and OPEX Fitness. She written two performance journals

30 Day Return to Play: An Edge in Sports, Mental Reps for Life

30 Day Reset Journal: An Edge in Sports, Habits for Life

She is an 2x All-America volleyball player from the University of Georgia, SEC Freshman and Player of the year and was inducted into UGA’s prestigious Circle of Honor in 2006. She has played on the USA National Team and enjoyed a season of professional ball in Geneva, Switzerland and on the beach. She has coached at the youth, high school, club and collegiate level. She is married with two children and currently coaches performance and mindset journaling to youth and college athletes and coaches.

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