Photo by Carol Colby • Noah Christensen has taken the initiative to promote mental health awareness
• By Robert Wanek Jr.
We hear it all the time — “More than a game” and “More than an athlete.” Still, when it comes to mental health in the sports world, it’s an uphill battle to stop the stigma. That’s why Noah Christensen’s recent interviews with the news media have sparked a crucial conversation of openness when it comes to dealing with anxieties and the importance of self care.
With Christensen’s story going public, the Breckenridge community has rallied around its native son and transcendent basketball star. Along with the awareness being raised for mental health struggles, we’ve gotten a close look at how special living in a culture-oriented place like Breckenridge really is. I’ve said it time and time again, we have something unique in Breckenridge that very few places share — a sports family. We pick each other up, dust each other off, and see beyond the jersey, into the character of our student athletes.
It’s a beautiful thing to realize this support continues long after our graduates quit playing or change jersey colors. Noah has shown his peers, his elders, and future generations of Cowboy/Cowgirl athletes that it’s okay to not be okay, and that expectations always take a backseat to maintaining your love for the game and most importantly, for life. With athletes like Noah, it’s never been about a level of athletic accomplishment which sets them apart, it’s about their innate qualities and purpose they serve through the vessel of sports. The great athletes always use their platform and god-given talents for the greater good. While it’s exciting to learn of his commitment to Concordia Basketball, it’s more exciting to see him back in the Breckenridge gym, jumping from his seat in applause as his former teammates succeed. This reciprocal support has been highlighted in a huge way during Noah’s battle, and it makes me proud to be a part of this city.
With the pressure, the standards they are confined to, many young athletes travel down a road of isolation, doubting the existence of a support net to fall back on. Christensen has showcased strength and his hometown has shown strength in numbers by backing him every step of the way. I’m proud of Noah for having the courage to share his story, the will to pick up a basketball again, and the desire to use his pain as power for a bigger cause. I’m equally proud of the response I’ve seen from our Cowboy/Cowgirl nation.