As college athletics around the world have been affected by COVID-19, CSUSB faculty look for ways to help their athletes with their mental health.
To most, the cancellation of sports last spring and this fall came at a surprise and disbelief. On August 5, the California Collegiate Athletic Association released this statement regarding fall sports: “Yesterday, the NCAA Division II Presidents Council announced the cancellation of 2020 fall championship events after it was determined to be untenable from an administrative and financial perspective, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this news, the conference is still looking ahead to the potential of all sports having the opportunity to compete in 2021.”
Kyle Csakan, a senior baseball player here at CSUSB, said, “My initial reaction to the postponement of the season was that it was a surprise. I didn’t really see it coming because I didn’t think the virus was that big of a deal.” Spring athletes like Csakan, missed out on half their season, fall athletes were able to finish their season, and winter athletes were able to finish conference play. However, our men’s basketball team missed out on the NCAA West Regional.
Lydia Morohunfola, redshirt junior and volleyball player, was left in disbelief when this statement was released. “As months went by I started to realize this was real and the season was cancelled,” said Morohunfola. “That got really disappointing and depressing, especially coming off such an amazing season.”
This delay within athletics has caused a lot of athletes to make a decision on whether they would like to continue participating in their sport at the cost of delaying future careers. Moronhunfola states, “It has me more worried more about the future than I have ever been.”
The Athletics Department has provided access to many resources that emphasize the importance of mental health and of normalizing receiving help when needed. Dr. Chelsea Herman, Senior Associate Athletics Director/Senior Woman Administrator, explained the resources available for student-athletes, “Wellness Wednesdays is our weekly group session led by JJ Gless, our CAPS liaison, and all student-athletes are welcome and invited to attend to support each other in a safe space and learn new tools to combat things such as injuries, relationships, performance related anxieties, social justice issues, etc.”
This group was created to drive discussion topics and the department is hoping it grows immensely this year, given the uncertain times. They have increased access for student-athletes and teams are able to meet with Gless each Wednesday.
Dr. Herman says, “She is wonderful about making herself available when needed. We will welcome a mental health speaker this year to speak to our student-athletes and share her All-American story, mental health recovery journey, and provide techniques for healthy self-care.”
With the help from coaches and emails from the department, athletes are able to attend these events often and when needed up to their discretion.
Shawn Farrell, Athletic Director of CSUSB Athletics, created a group of coaches, staff, and administration to serve on an internal Mental Health/Wellness Committee, focused on content and programming to support student-athletes in body, mind, and soul, which is chaired by Dr. Herman and one of the head coaches.
[su_quote cite=”Dr. Herman”] I like to believe our greatest champions and designated helpers are our student leaders, upperclassmen, and student-athletes who desire to end the negative stigma around mental health, while supporting others through many of life’s hardships.[/su_quote]
The news of spring semester being predominantly virtual has brought doubts to athletes and their upcoming seasons. Farrell states, “The short answer is the announcement was limited to on campus instruction and did not address athletics in the spring.” Farrell’s responsibilities during this time are to challenge the athletic department to find new opportunities to grow and improve. He states, “During any difficult challenge there’s an opportunity for growth.”
Wellness Wednesdays – If you’d like a non-therapy place to talk with fellow student-athletes on topics important to you, email JJ Gless (email@example.com) to express your interest in participating with the Wellness Wednesday group and a Zoom link will be sent to join the meeting.
Offered every Wednesday via Zoom
Time: 5:30 p.m.