It’s already hard enough, being a college student. There’s pressure—so much pressure—and not enough time in the day. Pressure to study, pressure to bring good grades back home, pressure to lead an active social life and pressure to succeed. Throw in a sport, and you suddenly have a 40-hour-a-week commitment and ideal conditions for mental health problems.
A student-athlete, who requested anonymity and will be referred to as Student-Athlete One, described her daily schedule in a text to The Carolinian. Needless to say, her daily routine leaves her little free time.
“Most teams have morning conditioning, then class, then afternoon practice, then weights, treatment with trainers, some might go back to another class while others have study hall. Also, you have to include some time to eat something. Plus you’ll have more homework to do at home, then by that time it’s [time to] go to bed and you wake up and repeat the process.”
It’s a testament to student-athletes’ discipline and time management skills that they are even able to keep their heads above water—but therein lies the issue. Between hectic schedules and any mental health problems that may already be present, some student-athletes do struggle to keep their heads above water.
UNCG aims to help those student-athletes. Starting this semester, they’ve added a new position within the department: a sports psychology consultant.
“This year, we were actually very fortunate… and we have hired a counselor/sports psychology consultant to come in,” Jay McCloy, Assistant Athletic Director for Health and Sports Performance, said in an interview with The Carolinian. “It will be a split position within Kinesiology and Athletics, and she will be providing the majority of the counseling to our student-athletes, beginning this fall.”
McCloy, along with two other sports administrators, form UNCG’s Mental Health Support Team, acting as “point men” to direct student-athletes who may be suffering from mental health issues to the appropriate campus resources.
Historically, student-athletes were typically referred to the Counseling Center, which cannot accommodate a student-athlete’s needs on the same level a sports psychology consultant could. Now, they’ll be referred to UNCG’s sports psychology consultant.
The fact that UNCG identified the necessity and importance of this new position is a promising sign that struggling student-athletes may get the help that they need.
“Just the fact that we’re able to move forward and have a person to provide some of those [counseling] services for us is going to be a tremendous asset for our department and our student-athletes,” McCloy said.
The issue now seems to be making student-athletes aware that these resources even exist. Another student-athlete, who will be referred to as Student-Athlete Two, did not mention the existence of the Mental Health Support Team in her interview with The Carolinian. Neither did Student-Athlete One.
“We have a policy and [student-athletes] have all been given access to that. Whether they read it, I don’t know,” McCloy said. “We try to make them aware of the Mental Health Support Team and they can talk to us or their athletic trainer.”
While the services in place are solid, it seems that UNCG isn’t advertising these services enough to student-athletes. Instead of including it in policy guidelines, coaches and administrators need to take direct action and let their student-athletes know via team meetings that these services are available. It only needs to be said once a year, maybe before or after a practice.
In UNCG’s defense, the issue will be brought to the forefront starting this semester. Their aim, according to McCloy, is to give all incoming freshmen a mental health screening, then hopefully screen all returning student-athletes. It goes without saying that a mental health screening is just as necessary as a medical check up; if UNCG can pull this off, it could be a life changing experience for some student-athletes.
This story will continue next week.