by Carter Bucci, Rustin Alumnus
Everyone knows that in collegiate athletics injuries are going to happen and are very common. But not everyone sees the other battles that each athlete is fighting. The mental health of student-athletes has been swept under the rug for many years. Luckily we have started to see a shift in that over the last couple of years. Some people believe that because a student is an athlete, they just get everything handed to them. That is certainly not the case. You could argue that athletes work twice as hard as students who are not athletes. Between practice, school, social and personal life, and potentially a job, student-athletes need to work super hard to make time for everything.
Everyone knows that college, in general, is super stressful on its own. But not everyone realizes how stressful being a student-athlete can be. If a student is on a scholarship, they made need to keep up a certain GPA to keep that scholarship, in addition to focusing on their play on the field. On top of class, practice, and homework, many student-athletes also have to make time to watch films for their practices and games.
At the Division-3 level, athletes are not allowed to receive athletic scholarships. This means that many athletes will get jobs either on or off campus to support themselves. This can be very stressful, and time management is very important. College is very expensive and many students need to get jobs to help them get through it. For a student-athlete, that might not be so easy.
The schedule of a student-athlete is very busy. Between lifting, practice, meetings, school work, class, and possibly a job, there is little free time. Some people are under the impression that because you are an athlete, that means you do not have to go to class or do your work. That is completely false. It means that you might have to put a little more into your schoolwork than a normal student. There are high- expectations for student-athletes on the field, off the field, and in the classroom. That can be very stressful for them. They are under a microscope all the time. Most student-athletes can say that they have felt overwhelmed with everything at one time or another.
For years there has been a stigma that if you admit that you’re struggling with mental health, you are “weak,” especially if you are a student-athlete. Athletes have been groomed to be tough, strong, and independent. They have been trained to just keep pushing when a problem comes their way. But when dealing with mental health, that is not a good way to deal with it. Whether an athlete made a bad play or are stressed about their classes, they all experience different levels of stress.
In my experience as a student-athlete, I have struggled with mental health, not only in my first season in college but also in high school. It wasn't until college that I was made aware of counselors and other resources that I could access if I needed help. My coaches encourage our team to use the mental health services that are available on campus. High school athletes' mental health is something I don't think gets talked about enough. I do not remember ever hearing about resources in high school for student-athletes, with the exception of guidance counselors.
The mental health of student-athletes has gone unnoticed for far too long. There are people who believe that student-athletes have everything handed to them and they only have to worry about their sport. Not only collegiate athletes but high school athletes of all kinds go through many struggles. Luckily we are starting to see a change in the landscape of all mental health, including the mental health of student-athletes. We are all in this together. I hope that in a few years people will start to realize how real the struggle of mental health is for student-athletes and for the conversation to continue and for mental health resources to continue to become more accessible for all.