Mental Health in Student-Athletes at Saint Martin’s

Malia Pinder, Staff Writer

Athletes are provided with trainers to help with any sort of physical problem that could stop them from performing, but unfortunately, a majority of athletes are not provided this same care for their minds. If you ask most athletes, they will say that their sport is more mental than physical, that they prepare their minds just as much as their bodies for competition. So why is this care for the mental side not provided? 

It’s because athletes are not typically portrayed as people who struggle with mental health. Athletes are portrayed as confident, tough, and untouchable. What people do not see is that most athletes are perfectionists who face failure and defeat daily. Olivia Schmidt, a junior on the softball team at Saint Martin’s, said “We as athletes expect perfection just as much as our coaches do… We as athletes put the most pressure on ourselves, fearing to let down those around us”. This pressure, added to the stress of being a full-time student, is a lot. Student-athletes spend upwards of 20 hours a week practicing. Schmidt compared this to having a full-time job. This does not include team meetings or individual practices. The pressures of class and athletics pile up quickly and require the care of someone who understands that struggle. Without that proper support, it’s easy for athletes’ mental health to decline.  

Along with struggling to balance school and athletics while facing failure, the attitude towards competition is just that: compete. Athletes are raised to be the best and anything less than that is not good enough. When you get to the collegiate level, “the level of player is just as good as you or even better”, said Nathan Mclellan, a sophomore on the men’s soccer team. Athletes go from being the best in their town or on their club team to an environment where perfection is expected all the time. What this does to your mental health, he said, is “cause many people to go into a downward spiral with confidence and overthinking whether you truly belong”. Schmidt said something similar, saying that “there is so much exterior pressure on athletes in general but what people don’t see is the self-inflicted pressure and standards that athletes hold in their name”. 

When asked how to support the mental health of athletes, Schmidt said “keeping [athletes] mental health in the forefront of their minds and to combat their thoughts and emotions as soon as possible” is essential. She said that “mental health should always be addressed in support of athletics and academics”. Mclellan added that “by giving [athletes] more outlets for support” such as “a day or two to dedicate ourselves to mental health support whether that’s therapy or other ways with mental health professionals”, athletes will see a decrease in mental health conditions and can have a healthier time playing sports. 

To support mental health awareness, Saint Martin’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee held a Mental Health Awareness Night at the men’s basketball game on Jan. 27. Members of SAAC handed out green Saint Martin’s shirts to those who attended the game, and information on mental health resources were provided throughout the night. 

If you are struggling with mental health, there are multiple resources at Saint Martin’s. The Counseling and Wellness Center provides free care on campus, in person, or over Zoom. There is also Timely Care, an app that offers online care 24/7. The Saint Martin’s NAMI Club is a club on campus centered around mental health as well. Saint Martin’s is here to provide support wherever they can. 

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