How Do Sports Affect Mental Health?
In public view, athletics have positive effects on the mental health of young student athletes. According to Mrs. Kristy Booher Angelo, Associate Athletic Director, sports can serve as an escape for athletes; it is their outlet to get away from the many stresses of daily life such as school, work, social life, etc.
Privately, sports can also cause athletes to overthink things. They may feel significant pressure from high expectations they set for themselves. Student athletes often look to play their best in order to possibly gain playing time or earn that starting position they’ve been working for all year long.
For a public and personal win-win, sports communities must work with student athletes to provide them with comfort and confidence in their skill sets to justify their potential anguish along with their many hours of preparation.
Gilmour Supports Student Athletes Physically and Mentally
The Gilmour Academy Athletic Department provides state-of-the-art facilities along with qualified and sometimes award-winning leadership to help student athletes succeed. However, victories, trophies, and personal bests are not the department’s only focus. Gilmour’s coaches and staff act as a source of encouragement for all of their student athletes, especially when mental health needs arise.
Mrs. Kara Santana, Gilmour Athletic Trainer, said that in order to comfort an athlete, she often works to “find out what the root of the problem is, have an open conversation with them, and overall try to have a good relationship with the student so that she can ask them personal questions rather than prying and causing them to put their defensive walls up.”
After determining the root of the issue, Mrs. Santana dives deeper into the issue in order to navigate through each one of those pieces of information. She said, “The core of everything is having a good relationship with the student athletes. Being able to communicate with them and gain their trust is the number one priority.” Once student athletes feel completely supported, their mental health can be given as much attention as their physical health.
Concussion Program Promotes Optimal Health
The current concussion program at Gilmour functions by Mrs. Santana working with the counselors and helping to direct them and the teachers to make decisions about what the student is ready for in the classroom.
With the whole spectrum of student athletes in different areas, this system helps the athletic trainers to better tackle how they address student athletes to make sure that all adult figures are on the same page. The trainers also communicate with the coaches and parents so that there is continuity, where student athletes do not have to worry about teachers acting one way then the coach acting another. Everyone involved works together as a team to support student athletes.
Student Athletes Feel Supported
Clare Valenza (‘23) and Lauryn Stover (‘22) both feel extremely supported by their Gilmour community as well as their basketball coaches. They both said that if they ever have any questions before practice or a game, they are extremely comfortable talking to their coaches because they are always very encouraging and willing to help their players understand the game as well as possible.
Valenza said, “The feedback I receive from my coaches greatly helps and impacts me as a person and as a player.” Valenza likes to be corrected to ensure that she’s playing at her maximum potential, which ultimately helps the team and contributes to fulfilling the team’s goal. Through the coach’s feedback, she knows that she is on the right track, which gives her a lot of confidence in herself.
Like Valenza, Stover also relies on encouraging input from her coaches. She plays every game as if it were her last. No matter who her team played, Stover said that she was always willing to “give her all for her coaches, teammates, and herself.”
Whenever encountering nerves before big games, Valenza and Stover take a few minutes to calm down, listen to music, and set goals for the game. Feeling supported, they clear their minds and mentally prepare to tackle any obstacles that come their way.
Mrs. Santana insists that student athletes must always feel supported both physically and mentally. As a whole, the Gilmour Academy Athletic Department works hard to provide a caring and supportive environment dedicated to ensuring good health for all student athletes.