Suzy Petty – Dropped because of mental health or performance?

Imagine being a professional sportsperson, the hard work, the dedication and the life changes that you make to succeed and be the best you can be at your sport.  

Imagine being described by your National Association, the association that you fight for and are proud to represent every single day, as “One of the hardest working players around, a highly dependable defender with a seemingly limitless amount of energy”.

FIH Pro League, Lee Valley H&TC, London, 9th June 2019. Great Britain vs Australia. Great Britainís Suzy Petty

Now imagine doing that with a hidden mental health problem. An eating disorder that you have kept hidden for the last ten years. You then build up the courage to face it head-on and open up to your friends, family and employer (in this case England Hockey), only for the consequences to not be quite what you expected… Welcome to the life of Suzy Petty.

Being diagnosed at the age of 17, Suzy has battled this Eating disorder for the last ten years. During that time, she has continued her hockey and fought every day not to allow the disorder to impact the sports she loves. Breaking into the England set up at junior level aged just 15, and playing for England Under 18, 21s, 23s, GB Youth, GB development, England and GB senior teams. Suzy has represented her country at every level, after the 2013 under 21 World Cup Suzy made her senior debut just a few months later.  

It was to be another three years before she played internationally again, but since then she has become a key component of the England and GB defences, winning bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and appearing in front of a home crowd at the 2018 Vitality Women’s Hockey World Cup. [1]

The above statement was taken directly from Suzy Petty’s profile on the England Hockey website.

Representing her country 51 times and playing in five major tournaments in the last three years, Suzy had become a regular name on the team sheet for both Great Britain & England.

Speaking after the ProLeague match against Argentina in May, Head Coach Mark Hager described Petty as an “intelligent player with lots of potential and a player I like having around”.

AUCKLAND – Sentinel Hockey World League final women Match id 10302 ENG v China Foto: Suzy Petty WORLDSPORTPICS COPYRIGHT FRANK UIJLENBROEK

So what has changed? Well one thing we know for sure, Suzy Petty has a Mental Health problem in the form of an Eating Disorder. But she has carried that through the last five major competitions including a World Cup, 51 international matches. Training every day has been a battle, but a battle that Suzy has kept to herself and under wraps until now.  

Coming out and opening up about the disorder, making herself vulnerable, to most would be a giant step forward to receiving the love and support needed to get through, and beat, the disorder. The love and support, as expected, came flooding in from all angles.  

View this post on Instagram

Right, so here goes 😬. I have been debating whether or not to do this post for a number of months but talking to my psychiatrist we think it will be beneficial for both myself and hopefully other people out there to share what I hope will be a positive journey. If this just helps one person, then I feel it will be worth it 🙃! • • Mental health awareness day 💚 seemed like a pretty good time to open up and hold myself accountable to finally beating an eating disorder that I have had on and off for the last ten years. I know it was a week ago, I did start writing this then, I have just been too scared to post for the last week!!!!! • • Last month, in the midst of training hard to come back to GB fitness testing in the best shape possible, I did the opposite and lost a considerable amount of weight. I was trying to restrict what I ate so I didn’t make myself sick, whilst trying to train as hard as possible. This has pretty much been an on going cycle for the last ten years. Going through stages of under eating, over eating and being sick, as well as having periods of ok times. As you can imagine, it is exhausting and sometimes I wonder how I have done it for so many years. My answer; ‘it’s just me, it’s life, I’m used to it 🤷‍♀️’. Anyway, I’m now tired of it and for the first time I have seen a massive negative affect to my hockey and physical performance. I came back the weakest I have ever been, I was finding training incredibly hard and every session absolutely knackering. I couldn’t compete physically with my team mates and I knew that I had really messed up. • • With it being less than a year to go until the Olympic Games, I finally want to beat this eating disorder that has ruled my life for so long. I want to put myself in the best possible state physically and mentally so that I can personally do all I can to get into the GB Olympic team, but also so that I can train day in and day out to push my team mates so that we will be the best team possible 🇬🇧. • • Continued in comments…

A post shared by Suzy Petty (@suzypetty92) on

One Instagram follow said

 “hannahcbenson

It’s amazing that you’r[e] sharing your story. You’r[e] an inspiration. I still can’t admit to myself that I have an issue which has been ongoing for over 13 years. ❤️❤️

When it came to her employer though things were different, initially, they were very supportive, but Suzy soon got a message that she had a meeting with the England Hockey Staff. A day after being told by her Doctor that she was fit to train, Suzy was told that she is being removed from the England squad with immediate notice (effectively, sacked from her job).

“Shocked and extremely sad” just weeks after seeking the support needed to get through a Mental Health problem, Suzy is told that her performances of late are not good enough and she has no place in the setup.

Surely five major tournaments, 51 international matches, playing in all but 2 ProLeague matches (those two missed due to a suspected broken bone in her foot) and being a regular feature in England Hockey marketing, leaves questions to be asked over the actual reason for her removal. 

———

England hockey were contacted five days prior to this article being written for comment, as yet, no response has been forthcoming.

EDIT: Shortly after the article was published, England Hockey responded with the following comment:

“Suzy Petty is one of a number of players who have recently been deselected from the international performance programme. With eight months until Tokyo, only members of the squad in contention for selection remain on the programme and it is disappointing that Suzy is not at that level. Making these decisions is always difficult and Suzy’s deselection is a reflection of on-pitch performance throughout 2019.

“Athlete wellbeing is at the forefront of all Great Britain Hockey’s work, and our athletes benefit from an exceptional support structure. We have been supporting Suzy, ensuring she has access to the best possible provision. We will continue to ensure she has the best possible support over the coming months.” 

If you or anyone you know are suffering from a mental health problem, do not hide it, find the strength to open up and seek advice from the professionals at Mind and Beat Eating Disorder.

Follow Suzy’s road to recover through Instagram and our continued support. @SuzyPetty92

Images: World Sport Pics

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