Rockets’ rookie Royce White sets up 'innovative' travel plan to fight fear of flying

For millions of Americans, air travel can be a very trying and anxious process, with some people refusing to fly unless absolutely necessary. Houston Rockets rookie forward Royce White, who suffers from an anxiety disorder, has figured out away to combat his anxiety about flying: He’s going to take a bus.

“Anxiety isn’t keeping me from [training] camp, taking a proactive approach to my mental illness instead of reactive is,” White tweeted on Thursday with the hashtag #StayingAheadOfMyDisorder. “I will not travel every game via bus, but it was decided that the less flying the less stress. I offered to provide the bus.”

White, the 16th overall pick in this year’s draft, suffers from anxiety and an acute fear of flying. White has made no secret of his battle with anxiety and explained his fear of flying in June during an introductory press conference.

“I’m scared (going) to the airport,” White said. “I’m scared going up, I’m uncomfortable in the air and I feel like a million bucks when we hit the runway.”

White, who averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, and five assists in his only season at Iowa State, had been a no-show at the Rockets training camp and was absent from the Houston’s media day on Monday. Late Thursday night, White and the Rockets agreed to an arrangement and he will join the team in McAllen, Texas on Monday.

White is not the first high-profile athlete or coach to have issues with flying. Hall of Fame football coach and television analyst John Madden refused to fly during his broadcast career and would take his personally chartered bus “The Madden Cruiser” to all games except for the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

“There’s something down on paper as far as a plan of attack,” White told KRIV-TV on Thursday night. “Not a letter per se, but it’s a plan and we’re both agreeing to it. We’re just going to go forward. The Rockets have shown me no reason to think otherwise.”

While there will be occasions where White will have to fly where the team makes trips to the east and west coasts, the arrangement should be able to satisfy both parties. The Rockets issued a statement saying that they are committed to White’s “long-term success” and “will continue to support him now and going forward.”

“Everything that they’ve done up to this point has been stellar as far as trying to advocate for helping me and supporting me in this illness,” White said. “I think that was a great step taken by the Rockets to be able to meet me on this one, and it was a great step in terms of mental illness being taken seriously in the workplace. I just think it’s a very positive thing that happened all the way around.”

Follow Jay Scott Smith on Twitter @JayScottSmith