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. 

New Updated NCAA Covid-19 Guidelines

Eric Bell, Staff Writer

What do we do, or have to do now? With the start of the spring semester now upon us and in full swing, Saint Martin’s athletics are continuing or starting back up! As teams come back together for practice and competition, people are wondering how the rise of Covid-19 and the Omicron variant is coming into play and how things are being accounted for. We all need to continue to stay safe and protect ourselves and others through these unprecedented times. Right now, are all trying to figure out how to do so.

With the uncertainty surrounding the new developments of the pandemic, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) released updated Covid-19 guidelines to try to bring about some ease during these anxious months. Saint Martin’s University, along with all other NCAA-affiliated schools, has adopted these guidelines and have already begun implementing them throughout the athletic department. 

A large part of this update is that the NCAA has adjusted its definition of “fully vaccinated” individuals. Earlier in the pandemic, being “fully vaccinated” meant that individuals had either received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine series, or the Moderna vaccine series. The vaccine series for Pfizer and Moderna means that individuals have had both doses of the vaccine. With the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, individuals only need to get one dose, because it is different than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Per the NCAA’s update at ncaa.com, now to be “fully vaccinated”, individuals need to be either within two months of receiving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, five months of receiving the Pfizer vaccine series, or six months of receiving the Moderna vaccine series. In addition to this, if student-athletes have received the vaccine earlier than the described windows above, they must have received a booster vaccine to qualify as being “fully vaccinated.” Finally, student-athletes who are within 90 days of a Covid-19 infection qualify as equivalent to being “fully vaccinated” because they now have the antibodies and won’t get it again for a while.

The second major part to come out of the NCAA’s update is the change in quarantining and isolation periods for student-athletes who test positive for Covid-19. Earlier in the pandemic, the quarantine time for individuals who tested positive was ten days. Per the update, the quarantine time has been cut in half, down to five days as long as the student-athlete has no symptoms or their “symptoms are resolving.” After those five days, the NCAA suggests the individual masking around others for five more days, except during athletic activities which follow a negative test. 

As for isolation, fully vaccinated individuals who have come in close contact with someone who tests positive do not have to quarantine but are suggested by the NCAA to wear a mask when not participating in athletic activities. Unvaccinated individuals, on the other hand, should still quarantine for five days if they come in close contact with someone with Covid-19.

This is a systemic change, as before student-athletes did not need a booster vaccine to be considered “fully vaccinated”, and they only needed to have the regular doses. The other big change here is the quarantine period has been cut in half, allowing student-athletes to return to the field and the classroom earlier than before.

These new updates are important to follow because the NCAA is not creating guidelines on its own. It is following the guidelines which the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has laid out. The NCAA’s update is merely bringing these new guidelines to the world of college sports.

Although the guidelines have changed, the overall idea hasn’t: do what you can to keep you and others as safe as possible.

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) logoVia:  NCAA (@NCAA) / Twitter

Do’s and Don’ts: Traveling During a Pandemic

Dominique Bornilla, Staff Writer

This year has brought about a lot of unprecedented events. While the world is slowly adjusting to life dealing with Covid-19, the only thing we can count on is the unpredictability that the pandemic brings. When I got the notice that a study abroad program was available, the one thing that kept running through my head was, “Should this pandemic stop me from living my best life?”.

I set up an initial appointment with the Office of International Programs and Development (OIPD) to talk more about the study abroad program. When I heard it was in Seoul, I was so excited having spent most of my summer watching K-dramas, getting into K-pop, and cooking/eating Korean food. Whether I would be able to go abroad was touch and go for a while, especially working through financial issues and trying to get a visa on time without having the ability to go to the embassy in person.

Despite some setbacks, I was on a flight to Seoul before I knew it. Here are some of the “do’s and don’ts” I learned in the process of getting ready to leave, dealing with quarantine, and life after quarantine.

Do’s:

DO YOUR RESEARCH! There are many things to consider when traveling, especially to a different country. I read many articles about things to pack for Korea, i.e., what to bring and what not to bring. One tip I learned from my research was that I should pack more pants than tops because of how different clothing sizes in Korea are from America. Writers expressed that it would be difficult to find bottoms in your size because Korean clothing tends to run small. 

Other things I researched were expats’ experiences in Seoul. Expat is the abbreviated word for expatriate. I learned that it was easy for English-speaking foreigners to get by in Korea without knowing the language. Because I did not register to take a Korean language class, this insight put me at ease about getting around Seoul. Another thing important to research is the culture of the country you are visiting. As much as we would like for the world to be inclusive, some cultures are not as open to the idea of foreigners. You do not want to come off as ignorant, so take the time to learn about the common practices of the place you are visiting. Just be mindful of the culture and be respectful!

Make a budget. Making a budget helps so much in the planning process for your trip. The essential things on my budget were rent, transportation costs, and food costs. Depending on how long you stay for the program, knowing how much you will need every month will keep you more organized and not prone to impulse spending. That being said, you should also budget for any other miscellaneous activities such as visiting tourist spots or eating out. Make sure to always have money for backup as well. While I was in quarantine, I ended up spending $100 more than I had planned to just on food because my quarantine company did not give me enough food for the two weeks. I used money from my other savings account to have food delivered to me. 

Make copies of everything. Before you leave, make sure you have a checklist of all the things you need to bring and that you have everything packed and ready to go. You will also need copies of everything. By everything I mean copies of your passport, social security, vaccination cards, all your other forms of identification, extra copies of your visa, and your Covid-19 test results. When I arrived at Incheon airport, the quarantine officials kept a copy of my test results, and it was a good thing I had printed out two copies because I had to show the officials at the testing site my results as well. 

Exchanged your money to the correct currency in advance. Personally, I exchanged $100 for Korean won at my bank because the exchange rates at the airport are higher, but to be extra safe, you should exchange $200.

Plan out as much as possible. I researched how much taxis cost to get from the airport to my quarantine place. Some services allow you to reserve a taxi in advance, and you can have a definite price to pay. Since many people were traveling into South Korea the same day I did, I found out my taxi reservation fell through. I searched for other services but still could not get another reservation, but I found that you can also get taxis at the airport; however, knowing how much it should cost you ahead of time helps a lot. This way, you won’t get scammed and end up overpaying. There were several taxi companies to choose from, and thankfully, I got a taxi that fit into the original price range I needed.  

Learn some common phrases to help you get by. Learning some common phrases will help you integrate more into the culture. Most people who live and work in Seoul know at least a little English or can get someone who can speak it. Knowing how to greet people or say, “thank you” is something the locals appreciate and usually are impressed by. I found as well that the locals tend to be more friendly when you try to speak their language because it shows good effort and appreciation of their culture. Some phrases I learned that are helpful to know, “Hello,” “Goodbye,” “Excuse me,” “Please,” “Thank you,” “Yes,” and “No.” 

As were still in a pandemic, make sure you are up to date on what rules may be in place where you are going. The mask mandate and social distancing rules are very strict in Korea so a day before I was released from quarantine, I made sure to familiarize myself with the guidelines. 

For the first two weeks out of quarantine, my housemates and I had to make sure to only go out in pairs after six pm. 

Find company with people who are travelling or have already traveled to the same place as you. I had quite a bit of anxiety in the days leading up to my departure. Thankfully, the company I was renting a room under set up a Discord for all their potential residents. It was there that I found other students who were flying out the day before me – I was able to talk to them about how the process went for them, for example how to go through customs and what the quarantine check-ins would be like. I also found a lot of people on Tiktok who would create content about their study abroad experiences in South Korea, so I made a point to reach out and ask for advice. 

Here are some don’ts: 

Don’t be afraid to explore. It might be a little scary at first to explore a city in a different country, especially if you do not know the language, but it is honestly such a freeing and wonderful experience when you do. If you need to take baby steps, just try to go on walks by yourself, maybe exploring your campus or the area surrounding your house if you live off-campus. Simply walking can help you familiarize yourself with your surroundings and you are not pressured to talk to anyone. I take walks every day for exercise, and it is even safe to walk late at night here in Seoul. I was able to find cute restaurants and cafes on these walks and a couple of hidden gems.

Don’t disrespect the cultural norms. Like I mentioned before, be mindful of the culture. Korea has certain beauty standards and my housemates and I found out that certain things are more acceptable to wear than others. For example, for females, it is not necessarily looked on kindly to wear tops that expose a lot of your upper body. Wearing bottoms that expose a lot of legs is more acceptable. We had to adhere to that to avoid getting stared at. 

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. As introverted as you are . . . ignore it! Your experience will be so much better if you are more open to meeting new people. Be involved and proactive about joining in on activities. Being in lockdown for a long time made me more introverted than I thought, and I used to have anxiety about meeting new people. I decided not to let that get in the way of having a good experience abroad, so I joined most of the activities they offer to foreigners and exchange students. I ended up filming a YouTube video with a regional celebrity for one of Korea’s travel and tourism companies.

Don’t forget to call home. Having the ability to talk to friends and family back home helped me keep my sanity while I was stuck in quarantine. Even now that I’ve gotten used to living in Seoul, every new thing I experience, I feel the desire to tell my sisters back home about it. Since we text every day, I feel it’s best to call home consistently to avoid homesickness.

Don’t forget to have fun and make the most of your trip. This one should be self-explanatory!

Plastic Bag Ban

Gilbert Smith, Staff Writer

Since Oct.1, 2021, the state of Washington began a plastic bag ban in effect for some stores, primarily grocery and department stores. They are called retail establishments in a special notice from the Department of Revenue, or D.O.R., for Washington State. It was originally supposed to take place earlier, but the pandemic forced it to be halted temporarily by Gov. Jay Inslee’s Emergency Proclamation 2082. A reason for this ban was the numerous complaints about bag shortages. The emergency proclamation expired Sept. 30th. The current ban has been put into action by the Department of Ecology, or D.O.E., for Washington State. It was passed by the State Legislature.

It only bans the use of single-use plastic bags in Washington State. This is applying to new bags being produced and not the ones that are already in the stores. There are six types of allowed bags according to the Wash. D.O.E website. Some kinds of bags will have charges attached to them but only two have mandatory charges. One of the charges, according to the special notice from the D.O.R. will start in 2026 for reusable plastic bags to increase from 8 cents to 12 cents. The paper bags will not change in price. There is even a form that can be filled out if you wish to report a store that is not in compliance with the bag ban. Compostable bags are still allowed but not recommended to use due to the fact that not all places can process them because of lack of equipment.

This ban doesn’t apply to various forms of public assistance that those with lower incomes have access to, such as food stamps. There are expectations for food banks and food assistance programs as well. This means you may find them still in use at some stores and that some will still have them as an option. According to the D.O.E., “Some single-use plastic bags are exempt from the law, including plastics to wrap meats and produce, bags for prescriptions, and newspaper or dry-cleaning bags.”

This means that now when going to most stores if you aren’t exempt from this law, you will need to pay less than ten cents per bag you request from them. However, reusable bags are still allowed in free of charge as well. There are two types of bags, green or brown banded plastic produce bags and single-use plastic bags, which are not recyclable. The ones that are still an option have been determined to be more recyclable.

A post by the D.O.E in July explains, “Plastic bags are a common form of pollution that threatens human health, wildlife, and the environment. Harmful chemicals are released when plastics are produced, used, incinerated, or slowly disintegrate into microscopic particles. Plastic bags are also a major contaminant in Washington’s recycling system that clog sorting machines and put worker safety at risk.”