the mental health of student athletes


Edward RudmanSports Writer

Southern will largely be occupied with containing the spread of COVID-19 between its athletes in the fall semester, however it will also be keeping a close eye on the mental health of its student athletes.

“We’re really centered around how do we support our student athletes’ mental health and well-being during this unprecedented situation,” said Nick Pinkerton, director of counseling services. “I’ve talked to coaches, Jay Moran and sent presentations to the coaching staffs.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s lives and the daily routines they have become accustomed to, but, athletes have lost a part of their identity due to the loss of competition and regular training, according to Pinkerton.

Nearly 25 percent of collegiate athletes reported clinically relevant levels of depressive symptoms, according to researchers at Drexel University and Kean University.

Southern will primarily focus on figuring how to encourage its student athletes to feel connected with one another, to the institution and to their sport; a task in which Pinkerton said will ‘not be easy.’

“We’ve invested quite a bit of time because it’s really got to be a priority before any physical considerations. We understand that there’s quite a bit of anxiety, confusion and stress,” said women’s soccer head coach Adam Cohen.

Cohen and his staff have been in touch with their players through weekly online meetings but have found that it is difficult to make a good connection that way. Cohen said the importance of athletes bonding together as teammates while they train and compete and admitted that online video is not as effective as in person interaction.

“This purpose and meaning for the athletes come from the routine of doing their training, competing and being together. It is a major part of their life and their identity so how can you continue to keep routines going,” said Pinkerton. “How can we connect with each other? Things like synchronous online connection is a little bit challenging because some people feel fatigued by it and it’s not the same as being in the room with each other.”

Senior track and field athlete Begotty Laroche, the 2018 Northeast 10 Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Rookie of the Year, has been conscious of the mental health challenges that will present themselves through the fall semester and has been in contact with her teammates over the issue.

Laroche said she is living off campus now which is different and is taking online classes, but it has just been hard for her to find the motivation to train when all of this is going on.

“I was talking to one of my teammates the other day and she did say she was feeling a little discouraged because cross country season got cancelled.”

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