On Episode 4 of The Line Up, hosts Ben Ruvo and Derek Gold welcomed basketball player and now writer Ian Johnson to the show. In high school Ian played basketball with Carmelo Anthony at Oak Hill Academy, where they finished 2nd in the nation. He went on to play D1 basketball at Davidson College and then five seasons in Europe.
Ian shared on the show his insight going through obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and learning about mental health. He attributed a lack of education to his emotional struggle, in which he felt “lost in the system of sports.” Without a framework to deal with the pressure he experienced, he was unprepared to handle his identity conflict. The drastic change from a local high school team to a leading academy team in the nation hit him hard and he needed to fully process it. He was immersed into a new world of basketball where he felt grateful for the amazing opportunity by still confused by how people portrayed his identity as a future star. Ian felt that people would only appreciate him for his athletic performance and nothing else, and thus he only viewed himself in a positive manner if his performance was top-tier.
Ian did not have a healthy way of handling the athletic pressure and because of this he experienced higher levels of OCD symptoms. He previously experienced OCD symptoms but the pressure of the sport dialed it up. A dialogue on mental health didn’t exist then, so athletes simply keep to themselves, which he noted is now changing. All to himself with his feelings of his athletic performance, he would ruminate on what a coach would say or how well he practiced. Ian noted that being able to process new events and move to the next level in sports is really what makes athletes utilize their full ability. He observed a strong balance between competitiveness and a calm self-identity among top athletes, recognizing that this is not that easy to achieve for individuals with mental health issues. Self-awareness, according to Ian, is the key to preventing a feeling of losing an identity.