What Does it Mean to Be a Student-Athlete?

“Five classes, an intense training schedule, away games every weekend, assignments, volunteering” says Paige’s Jamieson, a second-year undergraduate student and varsity soccer player at Dalhousie University. When you think of being a student athlete, you think of all the positives; such as your teammates who become lifelong friends, the victories and wins, and representing your school. As it is a great honour to represent your school through sport, it also comes with a great responsibility. Along with all the good times, there too comes obstacles, challenges and stresses that athletes encounter.

Paige’s story reflects on the demanding student athlete schedule, the pressures of life outside of sport, and what it is like to be mentally tough. When watching athletes and how they represent themselves, athletes do their best to demonstrate strength both on the playing field and in the classroom. However, setbacks, such as both physical and mental injuries, can interrupt training which therefore ultimately have an impact on an athlete’s mental health. The topic of the mental health of athletes is becoming an important component in sports experiences. Paige Jamieson highlights in her story that having a strong support system (coach, teammates, athletic trainers, roommates) is crucial. It is important to create an open environment, to promote mental health, and destigmatize mental health challenges that athletes face when dealing with pressures and expectations.

The connection between mental health and sports is becoming more and more recognized. As many sports teams aim to raise awareness and understand mental health in high performance sport, there continues to be areas for improvement. Sports teams, or better yet, the universities which whom they represent, need to identify, address, and champion on behalf of all student athletes the fact that mental health issues are absolutely present within their larger family. Resources need to be made available, and prevention strategies need to be employed. It is when student athletes know their school is supportive that they will have one less worry and thus be able to direct their energy elsewhere, be it in the classroom or playing field. These struggles by student athletes need to be addressed from an integrated sociological and psychological approach.

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