Prioritizing Mental Health in Athletics

May is Mental Health Awareness month. This is an important topic across athletics and especially in college athletics where we see a huge impact, need and emphasis around mental health on campuses in general today. And because of that, there has been a spotlight on the topic of mental health and the best practices for tackling, addressing and supporting such an important subject.

I wrote on this topic a year ago this month. How far have we come since then?

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Lessons in Career Development...What I Learned at NACWAA

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the NACWAA National Rally. For those of you who aren’t aware, NACWAA is the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators. The organization is the premier leadership organization dedicated to empowering, developing and advancing the success of women.

Each year NACWAA has an annual convention (or Rally, as it was called this year) and I had the privilege of attending the event for the first time this year. As a woman in the world of athletics, I can tell you that this organization is very much needed and does a great job of providing support and opportunities for personal and professional growth.

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Women Make Great Leaders... and Then Some.

Last week, EY Women Athletes Business Network and espnW released a comprehensive study exploring how “sport advances women at every level.”

In it, they’ve shared a WEALTH of stats on women in business and how sport has impacted the success of many, many businesswomen and female leaders today.

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The Message Baylor's New NFL Locker Room Sends

A few weeks ago, I read an article announcing the opening of a new NFL locker room facility on Baylor University’s campus. The new Charline Dauphin Pro Locker Room is a special facility open any time for the former Baylor and active NFL players who want to come back to campus. This news got me thinking about the various methods and levels of support college athletic departments provide its student-athletes and the messages it sends.

My initial reaction to reading the news was, “this is ridiculous” and “what a waste of money.” I immediately asked myself, why invest in facilities like a new NFL locker room that will serve so few? Why not invest in sustainable programs and services that will aid entire populations of student-athletes in succeeding in their academics and in life after they leave campus?

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Athletic Identity & Athlete Retirement

I spend a lot of time thinking about the transition that occurs when individuals end their athletic careers. Things like: What happens during the transition…what it means emotionally for the person...how it affects the individual’s lifestyle…what we can be doing more of to support people as they go through the process, etc.  Despite the fact that I’ve personally experienced this transition (and currently work with individuals as they go through it) there is still much that I don’t know.

I would argue that biggest portion of this entire process deals with the concept of athletic identity and how a person manages the changes related to it. I’ve written briefly on this before and think it’s quite critical to paint a better picture of the emotions, thoughts and feelings a person experiences as they go through this change in their life.

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Why Personal Development in Athletics Needs to Start Early

One of my previous blog posts addressed the need to provide additional support for professional athletes as they retire from athletics. This is something I believe at my core. The more I continue to think about it, the more I believe we can do a better job of developing athletes as individuals across all levels of athletics. Investing in the personal development of athletes needs to happen earlier in the athlete’s career and it is the responsibility of athletic organizations at every level to do this.

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The Importance of a Strong Support Network

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post sharing some of my advice for recent college graduates as they enter the “real world.” In writing that, I realized that I have more to say on the topic of building a solid support network and its importance. I hold this concept as a priority in my life and think that we all need to feel like we are a part of something bigger and a part of a community in order to thrive in whatever it is we do each day. 

Times of transition, like graduating from college, finishing your athletic career or starting a new job can cause your network and ties to community to be in flux. This leaves you vulnerable to little support at a time when you need it most. For many athletes, the lack of community is one of the biggest issues that can surface during the transition out of athletics.

 

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Why Professional Sports Organizations Need to Provide Better Personal Development Programs for Athletes

In February, former NHL hockey player Steve Montador was found dead in his home. He was 35 years old. 

There has been quite a bit of chatter around his passing and the issue of mental health support in professional sports. In the last week, Olympic medalist and hockey player, Hayley Wickenheiser, published an extremely well-written and thoughtful article on this issue in The Players’ Tribune. I also watched a very courageous and emotional video interview with current Chicago Blackhawk Daniel Carcillo on Montador's passing and the need for more support for the athletes in the National Hockey League. 

Both pieces moved me to respond, though I must admit that I’ve had a really hard time writing this post. So much so, that I have put off publishing it. I have such a hard time reading stories like Montador's and not getting emotionally charged. There is just no reason for something like this to happen — over and over again, especially when we have the tools to assist them. 

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What We Can Learn About Athletic Identity From Michael Phelps

Last week, renowned swim star Michael Phelps returned to competition after a six-months suspension from competition with USA SwimmingThe New York Times published this great article on his initial jump back into the water. In the article, Phelps is quoted about his career and where he’s at now on his new path in life.  

As a retired swimmer, I wonder what got him back in the water. Was it the love of the sport? Did he feel he had something more to prove or accomplish? Or was something just missing? Was swimming the only way to help fill that void? 

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