March 29, 2024 

‘I know how to fight for Hailey’: Hailey Van Lith talks mental health ahead of LSU Sweet 16 appearance

Van Lith asked herself last year, 'Why isn't what you feel ever enough?’

ALBANY, N.Y. — When Hailey Van Lith decided to transfer from Louisville to LSU, she had no doubt in her mind. She had spent time with the decision and knew it was the best choice for her.

Continue reading with a subscription to The Next

Get unlimited access to women’s basketball coverage and help support our hardworking staff of writers, editors, and photographers by subscribing today. Join today

But when her intent to transfer became public, pushback from the people close to her made her question that choice. 

“The reactions that they were having publicly and putting on the internet — they were being very vocal about how they felt negatively about what I was doing,” Van Lith told The Next. “It really tore me down. I was really starting to second guess. And that decision was a decision I made. I prayed on it. It was what I needed to do. God told me to enter the transfer portal.

“So the fact that I was second guessing that because of what other people were saying, I was like, ‘Hailey, why isn’t what you feel ever enough for yourself?’” 

Add Locked On Women’s Basketball to your daily routine

Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.

That realization sparked a change. Not a change on the court, but one in her mind. She wouldn’t let the opinions of others outvalue her own. Not again, not ever.

Typically, when she’d see lists like the top 25 impact players in the Sweet 16, she would stress about each player who was named above her. That girl is still inside her, the one who stresses about how the world views her, but she’s since gotten off of social media to mitigate those anxieties.

Now, she’s only focused on how she views herself. 

“They’re not out there helping you make shots,” Van Lith said. “And they aren’t out there when the game is on the line and I have to make the decisions.”

The help of a sports psychologist has changed everything for Van Lith. From her mentality off the court to her interactions with referees during games, it’s been a complete mindset shift. She’s handled officiating this season much better than she ever has, realizing that her past habits of becoming consumed with each call hurt more than helped her.

The Next and The Equalizer are teaming up

The Next is partnering with The Equalizer to bring more women’s sports stories to your inbox. Subscribe to The Next now and receive 50% off your subscription to The Equalizer for 24/7 coverage of women’s soccer.

“It’s just self awareness,” Van Lith noted. “It’s knowing myself best and knowing what Hailey needs to do to get Hailey to play the best.”

Separating herself from the outside voices has been no easy feat, but it was necessary. Controlling her emotions enabled her to control her play and enjoy the little moments a whole lot more. 

“The mental side of the game is so undervalued,” Van Lith said. “It’s so vulnerable that I’m very specific with people that I let into that part of my world.” 

Related reading: Hailey Van Lith leans on self-confidence through LSU transition

Van Lith is a different player — and a different person — than she was just a year ago when she entered the transfer portal. The people who tore her down are no longer around. They’ve been replaced with new friends and teammates who support her on her journey.

“The one thing [the doubters] can’t argue with is that I know how to fend for Hailey and I know how to fight for Hailey,” Van Lith said. “And that’s going to help me get to the next level.”

The Next, a 24/7/365 women’s basketball newsroom

The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff and dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.

Written by Talia Goodman

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.