Former national female baller falls to mental illness

April 08, 2019
In this file photo on January 14,2008, Portmore Strikers Sheree Marrow dribbles a ball in a match against Waterhouse FC.
In this file photo on January 14,2008, Portmore Strikers Sheree Marrow dribbles a ball in a match against Waterhouse FC.

A lot has been said about sports stars whose careers end due to retirement or injury, but what about those whose careers end due to mental illness.

That is what has happened to former Jamaican female footballer, Sheree Marrow.

Marrow, a former student of Donald Quarrie High in Kingston, Jamaica, was a member of Jamaica's national Under-19 women's team in the 2000s, playing alongside other famous names in the national programme.

Kayon Davis, also a former national female player, recalled the first time she saw Marrow playing in primary school.

"The first time I saw her was with the boys at Rocky Park (Habour View) and I thought she was amazing. She was the only girl, but she was the best player on the team," said Davis.

When she was 14, she was abused by a male training partner which heralded her mental decline. When she was 17, she became pregnant by an older male guardian and had an abortion. She was later diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.

"A dat me tek and put pon me head too, and make me get sick. I had an abortion," Marrow said.

Jamaican consultant psychiatrist Dr Geoffrey Walcott said genetics often play a role in mental illness, but severe trauma such as that which Marrow experience, may trigger a break.

Psychology trauma

"There have been recent studies about complex trauma and psychology trauma, especially in childhood, play a significant role in worsening the risk. There is also the issue of the person's own psychological make-up, (but) such a traumatic event could have been an initiator by itself," he said.

Even then, Marrow was able to function. During her early-20s she was a member of the Barbican women's soccer team that won multiple national titles under star coach, Charles Edwards. She also played for Portmore United. In 2008, Marrow earned a scholarship to Hill College, a community college in Texas, but within two years she was back in Jamaica.

"I played in Texas three months and played three months in Richmond, but then I get back sick and I came back to Jamaica, so I couldn't get to move on," she said.

When she returned to Jamaica, she was in the care of her mother, but since her mother died in September 2018, she has been mostly on her own.

"My sisters buy groceries and they give me a little money at the end of the month...that can't even buy sneakers," she said.

"I was looking work when I came back from college, but nobody don't want to hire me since I come back," she said.

Marrow's story is not that unusual, sports stars such as boxer Frank Bruno and golfer John Daly have spoken out about their struggles with bi-polar disorder, and research in the United States has shown that at least one in three female student-athletes have some form of mental illness.

Davis, who played with Marrow at Harbour View, and is now pursuing a PhD in Canada, said Marrow's situation was compounded by her socioeconomic circumstances.

"A lot of girls come into (football) from depressed areas as a way to escape, but when they do, they come into a team and meet up on predators," she said.

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