GREENSBORO, N.C. — Show up, work hard, and go to the pros. Those three things get drilled into young athletes as young as five. Two former professional football players from Greensboro say the pressure to perform at a high level through high school, college, and professional sports is a heavy weight every athlete carries.
Jamon “Mook” Reynolds and Tre Turner grew up together. They played football at rival Guilford County high schools but became teammates at Virginia Tech. On separate teams in the NFL, their mental health took a hit.
“We both went through times when our mental health was not where we needed it to be,” said Turner, who played football for Northwest Guilford and Virginia Tech. “We want to help kids understand your mental health is just as important if not more important than the physical aspect.”
Getting through those tough times was hard, but after coming out of those experiences, they discovered there's no playbook for the stress and pressure football stardom suddenly brings.
"It starts early! Kids start looking at football as a career at six or seven years old, so you have to imagine the kind of pressure and stress that puts on them,” said Reynolds, a top recruit out of Northern Guilford and Turner’s teammate at Virginia Tech. “I ask the parents of every child coming out here, who wants this? If the child doesn’t want it, then they’re only doing it for the satisfaction of their parents as opposed to wanting it for themselves.”
Tackling Physical and Mental Health
Turner and Reynolds decided shortly after leaving the NFL to head back to Greensboro and pour everything they learned about physical and mental health into the young athletes next in line.
“The three years after Virginia Tech were some of the most troubling for me. I had to move states in a short time, switched team to team, pulled my hamstring, and my grandfather died, so I faced a lot of things,” Reynolds said.
Tackling life's highs and lows eventually took its toll. And life wasn't throwing any free passes their way.
“I had to find the peace that I had within. That's what carried me through. It made me understand and realize this mental health training program was needed because we all experience it,” Reynolds said.
A New Way to Train
The former teammates started Next in Line Training earlier this year to mentor young athletes trying to get to the next level. It is a wellness initiative training the body and mind to be healthy.
“We prepare every child to be able to succeed in every category and every way of life,” Reynolds said.
“We tell kids, make sure your mental health is good, make sure you’re happy and doing what you want to do in life. “Football is one thing, but life is different,” Turner said.
Next In Line Training is registering young athletes for sessions in August. You can reach out to them via email at email@example.com or find them on Instagram: NILSkillsTraining.