NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The pressure that comes with participating in athletics, especially for youth athletes, has increased dramatically in recent years. Whether because of COVID-19, performance anxiety, or the pressure of expectation and success, thousands of youth athletes consider the toughest opponent to be the one in their own heads.

“Over the past three, four years, there’s been a huge rise in anxiety and depression and other mental health issues for athletes,” said Dr. Joel Brenner.

Brenner, who works with the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters Sports Medicine, is one of many professionals now part of a group trying to change that.

In conjunction with CHKD and former major leaguer Michael Cuddyer, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame has created what’s called the Youth Sports Mental Health and Wellness Alliance.

“(The alliance is) really just trying to get a pulse on what are the trends in mental health in youth and collegiate sports,” said Will Driscoll, Executive Director of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

The alliance not only hopes to identify the largest areas of concern with regards to mental health within youth sports, but eventually help activate policies which create positive change.