May 2023 AOTM: Jack BeerMay 01, 2023
Welcome back to TWN’s Athlete of the Month! Each month we are highlighting athletes in our network to share what they have accomplished outside of sports, their contribution to the athletic community, and more. Make sure to check out our weekly newsletter to learn more about the athlete, what motivates them, and how to contribute to their cause.
Our May Athlete of the Month is Jack Beer!
A soccer natural from a young age, Jack achieved great heights in the game quickly by scoring goals for the U.S. Youth National Team at the age of 13. Jack played on the international level and became an All-American in high school. He continued to follow his love of playing soccer to Georgetown, visualizing success for himself and his teammates.
Playing under the lights brought struggles with depression and anxiety, leading him to take his sophomore year away from the game to reset. Jack went back for his junior year and, despite initial struggles with his mental health, went on to become MVP of the Big East Tournament and lead his team to win the NCAA Championship!
Currently, Jack plays for the New York City Football Club (NYCFC). Jack has grown in his ability to handle both taking care of his mental health and being a first-class athlete and seeks to help others in their struggles by being a role model and advocate for mental health. He has effectively utilized his platform to initiate connections and foster open discussions on mental health issues.
In an interview Jack did with Morgan’s Message podcast: The Mental Matchup back in September 2021, he opens up about his experience with anxiety and panic attacks, how he eventually asked for help, and the ways in which his teammates and coaches showed up for him. Jack talked about athletic identities, the importance of finding balance and joy outside of sport, how coaches can support players struggling with mental health, and how athletes can take time away from their sport and come back stronger.
“I would encourage other people, and my younger self to focus on other things rather than just your sport. If you only focus on something that may not be going well […] those are the things that dominate your mindset."
He serves as a Mental Health Associate with Athletes for Hope, where he supports athletes in sharing their mental health stories.
Through hosting the Athletes for Hope Whole Being Athlete Series on Instagram Live, he has facilitated meaningful conversations aimed at ending the stigma surrounding mental health in athletics. Jack has become a trusted resource for both athletes and non-athletes alike, who reach out to him for support and guidance in their own mental health journeys. You can learn more about the Athletes for Hope Whole Being Athlete initiative here.
JACK x TACKLE WHAT'S NEXT
We also had the pleasure of hosting Jack on Timeout with TWN back in 2021 to discuss his mental health story.
Jack shared with us his journey as an athlete and how he navigated anxiety and the pressures of being a DI athlete. He talked about how he was afraid to speak up about his anxiety at first, but once he did, it was really the best thing for him. Jack emphasized the importance of having these conversations and communication around mental health with teammates and coaches.
“Communicating is really the first step of the process and being aware of those feelings and thoughts. The biggest thing for me was being able to be open about it. In sports, you worry that people and your coach will think less of you. But it really only did me good.”
He also talked about the importance of community and sharing your story.
“You’re not on your own. Don’t be afraid to send that message or make that call. Don’t be afraid to do it yourself. The world needs you."
Thank you, Jack, for coming on our Timeout with TWN. Your story is so important, and we appreciate you setting an example for other athletes to follow.
OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH JACK BEER:
What lessons has being an athlete taught you? What impact has it made on who you are?
Being an athlete puts me in environments that reveal so much about my character. I get the opportunity to learn new things about myself and how I react to different situations everyday. Themes of sport are themes of life. Beyond learning how to work hard, be disciplined, and be a good teammate, being an athlete taught me that I'm not just working my body when I play a sport - I am working my mind as well. How I play is merely the product of how I think and feel. Feeling inspired? You will play with creativity. Feeling motivated? You will play with energy. Feeling fearful? You will play with tension. This has completely shifted my perspective on the importance of mental game training, staying present, how to work with emotions like fear, anxiety, and pain, and overall how to show up for myself in sport and life.
Why is sharing your story around anxiety and mental health so important to you?
Sharing my story around anxiety and mental health is so important because for far too long I thought my feelings were invalid. I thought because I was an athlete, specifically a male athlete, it would be weak of me to talk about emotions like fear, anxiety, and pain. That I would be looked at as someone that doesn't belong, let alone on the field. The temptation is to hide those parts of you and grind through it. From my experience, hiding not only neglected my needs, but it intensified those stuck, negative emotions that I refused to release to the point where it was hard to make it through the day. I want my story to serve as the permission slip for other people that I wish I gave myself. To validate those feelings specifically as an athlete - to inspire people to take action and express how they feel to a trusted friend, teammate, or coach - to share my love and empathy for all athletes trying to be the best they can be everyday.
What is the most important thing you have done for yourself thus far to prepare for life after sports?
The most important thing I have done thus far to prepare for life after sports is invest in myself and personal growth. Up until recently, I identified with being an athlete so much that I didn't know myself all that well outside of sports. I have done a lot of work to understand how my mind works, figure out who I actually am, and learn how to make connections and build better relationships. I work with life coaches, mentors, and myself to figure out the answers to the questions I have about life - questions I was previously never even bothered with when I identified solely as an athlete. This was and is an ongoing process - it will never be perfect and there is always more to do. Nevertheless, I feel I am building a solid foundation for myself as a human being in life, sports or no sports.
Have you started thinking about life after sports? If so, how do you know you're ready to shift into that mindset?
I think the mindset shift to life after sports can stem from different places for different people. Personally, I am trying to remain present while I am still an athlete, but it helps to realize there's more to life than sports. This was not an easy realization to come to. As mentioned, I previously solely identified as an athlete. Even today I still feel stigma saying "there's more to life than sports." But it's true - other passions start to interest you when you take interest in other passions. When you identify with more than sports, it is natural to gravitate towards those things.
What advice do you have for athletes around advocating for themselves and their mental health?
A mentor of mine started a movement called the "You Choose Movement" with the aim being to create spaces where we can be our most authentic selves. I think listening to and respecting my most authentic self has to be one of the most rewarding lessons I have learned through my personal growth work. Many of us struggle to be our authentic selves due to those tough emotions getting in the way - fear, anxiety, pain, etc. As human beings we have been given the gift of choice, the ability to make decisions everyday, numerous times a day. My advice for athletes advocating for themselves and their mental health would be to choose to express themselves authentically - the good and the bad parts, all of you. Choose and respect the voice inside of you that wants to speak up, and practice strengthening your voice like you would your body. Advocating for yourself takes courage, and courage is a muscle too. It starts off weak and difficult, but as you practice, you get stronger, more courageous, and more authentic. You have all the answers in your heart - choose to listen.
Thank you Jack for all the work you’ve done to help support mental health initiatives around the world. We're proud to highlight you as our May 2023 Athlete of the Month.