A deep look into how even the best athletes struggle with and persevere through mental illness.
In growing numbers, athletes are speaking up about their struggles with mental illness—including high-profile stars such as Michael Phelps, Kevin Love, Simone Biles, and Naomi Osaka. More disclosures are surely on the way, as athletes recognize that their openness can help others and inspire those around them.
In Mind Game: An Inside Look at the Mental Health Playbook of Elite Athletes, Julie Kliegman offers insight into how elite athletes navigate mental performance and mental illness—and what non-athletes can learn from them. She explores the recent mental health movement in sports, the history and practice of sport psychology, the stereotypes and stigmas that lead athletes to keep their troubles to themselves, and the ways in which injury and retirement can throw wrenches in their mental states. Kliegman also examines the impacts of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use, and more, with a keen eye toward moving forward with acceptance, progress, and problem-solving.
Featuring insightful interviews with Olympians Chloe Kim, McKayla Maroney, and Adam Rippon, NBA players Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan, former U.S. Open tennis champ Bianca Andreescu, and many other athletes and experts, Mind Game breaks down the ongoing, heartening movement of athletes across sports coming forward to get the care they need and deserve—and to help others feel safe opening up about their struggles, as well.
Julie Kliegman is the copy chief for Sports Illustrated. Previously, she was copy editor at The Ringer, weekend editor and breaking news contributor at The Week, and a news fellow at BuzzFeed. Her writing on a wide variety of topics has appeared in outlets including Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, The Ringer, Vulture, BuzzFeed, Vox, The Verge, Bustle, Washington Monthly, The Week, and more. Kliegman is a frequent guest on radio and podcasts and has been interviewed about her work on shows including SportsNet 90 The FAN, Sports Media With Richard Deitsch, New Hampshire Public Radio, BTR Daily Beat, and FM 96.9 The Game. She lives in Queens, New York.
Introduction: Learning From Our Idols
PART I: Eyes on the Prize: How Mental Performance Shapes Athletes
Chapter 1: Mentally Tough: The Stereotypes Athletes Fight
Chapter 2: Looking Back: A History of Sport Psychology
Chapter 3: Science and Practice: What Mental Performance Coaches Actually Do
PART II: The Megaphone: Speaking Out About Mental Illness
Chapter 4: The Firsts: Trailblazers Who Came Forward
Chapter 5: Open the Floodgates: More Athletes Join the Cause
Chapter 6: The Greats Chime In: Anxiety and Depression Amid a Pandemic
Chapter 7: On Campus: The Push for Better Care at Colleges
PART III: The Diagnosis: Coping With What You’ve Got
Chapter 8: Substance Use: From Alcohol and Cannabis to Psychedelics
Chapter 9: Body Image: Eating Disorders in Professional Athletes
Chapter 10: Life Out of the Game: Injury, Absence, and Retirement
Conclusion: So What’s Next?
About the Author
At a time when sports have (finally) come to appreciate the importance of mental health and clarity, here comes Julie Kliegman with an extraordinary examination of the topic. Thorough, empathetic, and relevant, Mind Game helps us understand elite athletes—while packing practical applications that extend way beyond sports.
Mind Game is an important read for anyone undergoing any level of mental challenge in their life or those who want to better understand the importance of mental health in sports or everyday life. Julie Kliegman is very thorough in telling the stories of elite athletes and outlining methods that can lead to overcoming mental obstacles that lead to a more peaceful and fulfilling life.
Thanks to the openness of professional and Olympic athletes such as Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Naomi Osaka, Kevin Durant, and many others, we are learning about the mental-health challenges of some of the world’s best athletes who previously seemed invincible. Sports journalist Julie Kliegman describes the relevant research and shares compelling and sometimes painful stories of the struggles with which many top athletes have been confronted. Mind Game sends a powerful message to athletes of all ages and abilities (as well as to parents and coaches) to prioritize mental health over performance and results, and, more importantly, to seek professional help when needed.
Julie Kliegman’s Mind Game is a vulnerable, visceral, and essential volume examining how elite athletes handle mental health and mental illness. Kliegman writes with biting clarity that is at times funny and at others devastating. This book is a fearless look at a topic that is at once ubiquitous while also completely ignored. Absolutely essential reading.