When Samohi alum Olivia Lubarsky left the sunny skies of Santa Monica for the snowy streets of Maryland to continue her training in gymnastics at Towson University, the 21-year-old never believed she’d find herself in the position she is today.
This past weekend, Lubarsky was invited to speak at a TEDx Conference in San Luis Obispo, where she spoke about “Own Your Roar,” which is an initiative started by Lubarsky that seeks to unite mental health and athletics.
“I started off (the speech) sharing a piece of wisdom that I believe is the best piece of wisdom that’s been shared with me so far, and that’s the phrase: “Perfectionism paralyzes potential,’” Lubarsky said in an interview this week.
Citing high school as the start of her experiences with high-functioning depression, the 21-year-old said her mental health only got worse as time went by.
After sitting out her freshman year to focus on her health, Lubarsky was ready to compete her sophomore year but suffered an injury before the season started. While recovering, Lubarsky realized athletes have access to a lot of resources for healing physical injuries but there was a lack of support for their mental and emotional wounds.
“And so for me, one of my main messages that I wanted to push and what ‘Own Your Roar’ really strives to teach is that mental illness is just as valid and just as detrimental to your performance as a physical injury,” Lubarsky said.
As she described the setbacks she’s encountered since leaving Santa Monica, Lubarsky said, “My whole mindset was: ‘I’m not depressed. I’m being dramatic, and I’m just using this as an excuse to justify why I’m falling short of perfection.’ I became so afraid of failure, that I wasn’t acting at all and I wasn’t functional.”
These experiences during her trying time led Lubarsky to believe that not only should there be an increase mental health education for student-athletes, “but that also needs to be coupled with resilience, leadership and mindfulness curriculum to teach people to cope with their emotions, cope with stressors, cope with failure, and learn to appreciate failure as a tool to learn,” she said.
Only minutes after walking off stage, Lubarsky said she received a few social media messages from people in the audience who shared how much they appreciated the discussion.
“So, I’m really excited for the platform that ‘Own Your Roar’ is now going to be able to reach,” Lubarsky said as she described her vision for the future.
“Last December, right around winter break. I was approached by a few of the gymnasts on UCLA’s team, who were looking at starting like a similar initiative and I’ve had a few conversations with administrators at the NCAA and at Mental Health America to see if there’s opportunities for collaboration,” Lubarsky said. “I do also envision furthering Own Your Roar by comprising a panel that would create an official curriculum that would accompany the program and allow others to see the perspectives of current and former student athletes, coaches, trainers and clinical professionals.”
And while the next step is to be determined after the completion of competition season, Lubarsky said, no matter what comes next, she is appreciative of the opportunities she has already been afforded.
“I’m very thankful to really have the support of a whole community of people who helped me when I first launched ‘Own Your Roar,’ and who have seen it grow to what it is today,” Lubarsky said. “I had no idea it would expand like this.”