In a May 2022 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) study, college athletes reported high levels of fatigue, anxiety and depression.
Academic worries, financial worries, and planning for the future were the most frequently reported stressors. These concerns were higher among the most marginalized and vulnerable groups, namely women, people of color and those from the LGBTQIA+ community.
Student-athletes are constantly juggling athletic activities, schoolwork, and home life. This is all in addition to managing their self-care – both mental and physical – as the semester progresses.
It takes quite a toll.
To be eligible for intercollegiate competition, a student-athlete must be continuously and actively enrolled and attend at least 12 units during the athletic season.
“I always felt like I didn’t have time,” said Malaya Street, a former SJCC softball player. Street said she had a very busy and tight schedule, one that often included early mornings and late nights. Street noted that she always had to leave her practices early to go to class, which left her feeling unprepared come game time.
“It depends on how many credits,” said Women’s basketball player Meggie Awala. Awala, along with other athletes, take multiple (20 or more) credits each semester while following rigorous academic and athletic schedules.
There are 86 men and 37 women who participate in at least one sport at San Jose City College.
Healthy body, mind and spirit
“I feel like my life is on hold right now,” Street said.
Street, entering its final season in 2022, has had to endure many challenges. She suffered a devastating ACL tear, lost both of her grandparents within a month of each other, and lost a job opportunity she had lined up.
“I try to split the classes,” said athletic advisor Veronica Harris.
Generally, what Harris does is take all the classes they will need for general education or their degree, and then split the classes so they don’t take all the hard classes at once , especially during the season. .
“When they’re in season, I try to only take one hard course that semester, but it also depends on what their major is,” Harris said.
The public view of athletes is often dominated by larger-than-life figures such as Michael Jordan or the late Kobe Bryant. As competitors, they are considered modern-day warriors, bravely battling adversity without much regard for their own well-being.
“We are not robots. We don’t just play sports. Are we feeling the people who were playing this sport and having things happen to us,” Briana Scurry said in a tweet. July 27, 2022.
Athletes always hope for an injury-free career, but injury is often an inevitable part of playing a sport. Minor injuries tend to be managed with little or no disruption to an athlete’s participation in physical activity and daily life, but larger injuries can trigger or unmask underlying mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and substance abuse. substances.
“I felt like I was at my lowest and I’m still trying to come out of it,” Street said of her life after facing such strong battles.
While Street feels she hasn’t quite seen the light at the end of the tunnel, she said she’s grateful and appreciates the close bonds she’s made with her coaches and teammates, saying she remains hopeful moving forward.
Two hours of practice that come after seven hours of school can be a major source of burnout, so athletes need ways to restore their energy and prioritize their psychological health and well-being.
Building a support system, setting achievable goals, and identifying coping mechanisms are all ways athletes can improve their mental health. SJCC student-athletes like Street and Awala said they also have access to a variety of counselors and experts to get more in-depth help on a professional level.
“Mental health comes first for me. If I’m not well, then I take time off for myself,” said Awala.
When she’s not on the court, she said she listens to a variety of music, writes in a journal and seeks out friends to talk about her emotions safely.
Do coaches care?
Being a student-athlete isn’t easy, but genuine relationships between athletes and coaches can help make the workload more manageable.
Softball coach Debbie Rooney is an example of that, as she said she makes an effort to take care of her players year after year, both on and off the field.
“Instead of looking at all the negativity, try to look at the positive,” Huntze-Rooney said.
Huntze-Rooney has coached softball for SJCC for 32 years and said she strives to create a safe, family-oriented space for her players.
Huntze-Rooney offers yoga days where there would normally be practice.
“Mental health is so visible,” Huntze-Rooney said.