‘It’s very difficult’: RSL’s Diego Luna opens up about mental health struggles

May 18, 2024, 1:46 PM | Updated: 4:21 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – A natural athlete, 20-year-old Diego Luna loves being on the field.

“20,000 people’s eyes are on you, and this is your moment where you get to have fun and be free,” Luna said.

But that freedom comes at a cost.

“From the outside world, people think that everything might be all sunshine and rainbows,” he said. “I think it’s good to have somebody out there to tell you that it’s not. It’s very difficult.”

“These younger players are carrying a big burden to be professional athletes when they’re really young,” RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni added.

Luna, a California native and Olympic hopeful, is in his second season as a midfielder for Real Salt Lake. He admits the season was off to a rocky start. Pressures on and off the field, including becoming a father, were affecting his mental state.

“I was lost, a little bit lost,” he said.

Mastroeni, Luna’s coach, noticed something was wrong, and Luna opened up to him about his struggles.

“It gives me a different perspective as to how we judge them as athletes when you know what’s going on in their personal lives, and I think that creates trust between players and coaches,” Mastroeni said.

Luna said he’s been going to therapy and that getting the help he needed has made all the difference.

“It’s been life-changing,” he said. “There’s so many different tools that you can add to your toolbox that I was so unaware of. Once they give you tools, you put them in your toolbox and you apply them in moments of, you know, frustration and anger and stuff like that.”

He said tools like practicing mindfulness, writing in a journal, and spending quality time with loved ones help him better perform as an athlete, as a teammate, and as a dad.

“There’s no words to describe kind of how it makes you feel and the love you have for that little human,” he said of his 8-month-old son.

With tools in his toolbox, Luna is on his way toward a healthier and happier future – the ultimate goal.

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‘It’s very difficult’: RSL’s Diego Luna opens up about mental health struggles