Ricky Rubio’s goodbye to the NBA was hard and direct. The Spanish point guard agreed to terminate his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers after 12 years in American basketball. After making the decision, he made it public in a letter that must be understood in the context of an elite player who was leaving the courts in August. He abandoned the team’s concentration at the World Cup to take care of his mental health.
In the letter he comments that “on July 30 he lived one of the hardest nights” of his life, when his mind went “to a dark place. In a way I knew I was going in that direction, but I never thought that I was not under control of the situation.” However, shortly after he decided to put on hold his prolific professional career in which, in addition to his years in the NBA, he collected a Euroleague, two Eurobasket, a World Championship…
The loss of his mother as a fundamental factor
“Ricky Rubio, due to his career, is a person who has his feet on the ground and who has tried to be consistent with everything he does. He has the handicap that at the age of 14 he began to have great responsibility for his sporting talent. and everything it means at the media level. He has tried to manage these aspects with good advisors. In fact, when he played for Joventut, when he was very young, he was not allowed to do interviews until he was of legal age. He has relied a lot on his family and his loved ones, in addition to the team behind him,” highlights David Peris, president of the Spanish Federation of Sports Psychology (FEPD).
Peris carries out an analysis for El Periódico de España, from the Prensa Ibérica Group, on the lessons in mental health that Ricky Rubio’s farewell leaves behind. “In 2016, an event occurred that seems to have marked his personal life.. His mother died of lung cancer after time undergoing treatment. According to him, he was a great source of support who left very early, which marked him. And even in 2018 he created a foundation to help improve this disease,” explains Peris.
This important loss has greatly marked the biography and recent career of Rubio, who has continued to bear great responsibility throughout these years. “You have success, money, you do what you’ve always wanted, and yet you continue with ‘the same old thing’, but without that great support that you had since you were little“, highlights the psychologist, who also has training and experience as a clinical or general psychologist.
Ricky Rubio “meets his obligations and respects his privacy”
“And the challenges? What did you have left to achieve? What can keep you excited about continuing in the gap? You continue doing what you always do, almost out of inertia, but perhaps without the necessary motivation, without obtaining the reinforcers that do that life has meaning, because the challenges are no longer what they were; and on top of that, the usual support is no longer the same. All of these are ‘dangerous’ indicators that can seriously damage the mental health of any person.“, reflects the president of the Spanish Federation of Sports Psychology.
For Peris, therefore, in his farewell letter, Ricky Rubio “explains his situation and also handles the media pressure in a brilliant way: without clearly explaining what he is really suffering from. He doesn’t have to do it either. He does state that it is not right. , that something happened that broke him down and who looked for the most appropriate way to do so“. Likewise, the sports psychologist emphasizes that this goodbye refers to the NBA and not to Europe.
Finally, for the mental health professional, “the appropriate time, manner and messages are chosen for this. He fulfills his obligations as an athlete and also respects his personal privacy.“Assuming the framework and focus of the positioning that Ricky Rubio maintains with his followers and society, for the sports psychologist it will be necessary to see what the Spanish player’s ailment really is.
The return home against the “entrapment” of the athlete
“Surely, the loss of reinforcers is a relevant factor, and for this we would have to start seeing things in a different way. Much more realistic and start to value well what they have and what they are achieving. Perhaps the ‘return home’ -FC Barcelona is considered one of the destinations- with your loved ones as an athlete is one more step towards your recovery,” says Peris, who emphasizes that the reinforcers will allow him to “continue enjoying what he likes and other things in life.”
These and other questions are reflected on in book ‘Mental health and Sports Psychology’, edited by the Spanish Federation of Sports Psychology and the Latin American Society of Psychology of Physical Activity and Sports (SOLCPAD) where more than 30 professionals from 10 countries participate in 16 chapters.
In this sense, Peris asserts that cognitive-behavioral psychology has “tools to improve these aspects efficiently in a relatively short period of time. You have to work well and judiciously.” Finally, a relevant aspect is raised such as “that the athlete makes the decision that he must stop in search of recovery. Because many times the environment, the environment and what a great psychologist like Álex García-Mas says, exist a ‘trap’ in which he is plunged into a maelstrom from which he cannot escape“.