Facundo Imhoff: “For my mental health I decided to whitewash my sexuality but I was afraid that my career in volleyball would end”

He is in a moment of tranquility, he feels like a mature player and that is why he sought personal and emotional well-being. Currently Facundo Imhoff plays for Lindaren Volley, a team from the Swiss city of Amriswil located one hour from Zürich. More than eight years ago, his body and mind showed him the way. His personality and his life changed in a resounding way. For two years he had had serious injuries, too complex for a 22-year-old player: Herniated disc, tibia stress fracture, ankle sprain with torn ligaments and an unskilled shoulder slap. “In the middle of the game my left shoulder turned and that took me off the court. There I said well, I have to take care of this “, Imhoff confessed in dialogue with Page 12.

-When did you decide to accept your sexuality?

-I lived a double life that was not good and pretended to be heterosexual. At that moment I was with my first boyfriend and I was forcing him to lead that double life. It was such a waste of energy that I ended up saturated, my head exploded, even with my friends I had to pretend. I did not see myself in the long term with that life and for my mental health I decided to say it, even if I had to take care of what that could generate, for example that my professional career ended.

-Was that your biggest fear?

-The fear of losing my job was what blocked me the most. I had already told my family and my closest friends, but if I did tell it in the team, for me there was the possibility that I would be discriminated against, fired or in the future a lot of doors would be closed on me. They were my fears, in time none of that happened. On the contrary, it was a trigger for good things having him whitewashed.

Julia Raimundi is a doctor in Psychology, researcher at Conicet, director of EIIPD (Research and Innovation Team in Sports Psychology), she worked in high performance and currently does so with athletes in sports training: “Fear can be seen as threatening or challenging, the important thing is to provide the athlete with tools that make him feel confident to be able to face the situation ”.

-And with the injuries, what happened to you?

-Instead of accepting my sexuality, I fanaticized myself with volleyball. A false fanaticism, an excuse, my head was 100 percent volleyball not to take care of the rest, and the body took its toll on me. In two years I was seriously injured and what detonated me was a shoulder slap. That’s where my process of acceptance of sexuality started. After I said it, I stopped injuring myself, my performance improved, I changed as a person, my personality changed for the better.

-What changes did you have in your personality?

-Before I was a quiet introvert, I did not talk about my private life or my feelings, I was always fine but I never spoke in depth and suddenly I began to have no filter, I learned not to shut up anything. What I am now is the complete opposite of what I was before I whitewashed my sexuality.

Imhoff cannot believe that he was in that place, nor that at this point there are still players living that double life: “I did it for a year and I had such great wear and tear that I think of other players who have been doing it for years, they must have totally burned their heads.. When you are not sincere with what you want, your body takes its toll ”.

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Raimundi also referred to stressful situations: “It is the most predisposing factor to generate an injury because physiologically it hardens you, it removes the focus of attention from what is important. It is easier to have an accident, an injury and if the factor that generates stress is not changed, that behavior will repeat itself.

-Did you have psychological help to deal with that situation?

– At that time I did not go to therapy, my friends were the main support, but a year later I started a psychologist. I don’t know why I started, I think I needed to sort out the tornado that happened a year ago and I needed stability. It helped me a lot, maybe it would have been good to do it before, but it happened like that and I don’t regret anything. We constantly need to work on the mental issue because it is important, just as we work the body when we train, with the head it has to be the same way. Sometimes we get distracted by other things so as not to look inward.

The doctor in sports psychology also focused on this: “Mental health is part of integral health. We cannot divide the mental from the physical. In the long term, people have syndromes such as “burn out” or overtraining that are a consequence of not paying attention to themselves. To perform well you need to have an emotional, psychological and social well-being guaranteed internally and by the context “.

After the Pan American Games, in 2019, Imhoff was invited to tell his story on several television programs: “I did not like to tell my private life, but I understood that it was necessary to carry that message, to break that silence and that taboo especially in sport ”.

– Why do you think your story only became known after Lima?

– We won the gold medal in the Pan American Games and I just gave a note. Why not before? Because society changed a lot and 10 years ago I was not prepared to receive that news. Having to sit on the shows to explain that was boring but it started to be conspicuous. In fact, other athletes also went out to whitewash their sexuality (N of R: Sebastián Vega, basketball player), obviously not professional soccer players. That is going to be difficult.

Accepting Facundo Imhoff changed his life, he showed himself as he is and that made his professional sports career improve even more. The injuries, shyness and fear disappeared. His mental health improved. The only concern he currently has is uncertainty after retirement, as do most athletes who do not have a secure future through sport.

Regarding this, Dr. Raimundi made it clear that it should not be reduced to elite athletes: “If we think about mental health only in high performance, we are already late. If we work from the training of athletes, we will save a lot of time because we will work on these factors from the beginning of the sports career. High performance sport is not health when you don’t choose it ”.

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