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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    OPINION: Mental health issues affect athletes, too

    Logan Cook

    College athletes, no matter what division, have a tougher time in college. They have mandatory prac-tice up to three times a day, weightlifting sessions multiple times a week, mandatory study hours eve-ry week and more.

    They miss countless classes to go to other universities and compete for their own.

    Some professors are understanding and show compassion for these students, while others do not. All of this stress and no free time can push an athlete over the edge.

    My first semester of college, I was a Division I athlete. My days consisted of class, weights, practice and no time for lunch. I ate a big breakfast around 9 a.m. and then didn’t have a chance to eat until 6 p.m. I couldn’t be late to practice or to weights to eat. I hated being a Division I athlete. One of my classes required me to go to three seminars on campus throughout the semester for 15 percent of my grade. These seminars always conflicted with my practice and travel meet schedule.

    My professor wasn’t the most understanding about this conflict, and it caused a lot of stress for me. I know a lot of my teammates have often thought about quitting because of the time commitment and the stress that came along with being an athlete.

    Some people don’t feel like they can handle being a student and an athlete. When I quit my sport, I felt a lot of pressure from my coaches and my parents to stay an athlete, even though it was not something I wanted to do anymore.

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    College athletes are perceived as being stronger and more elite than the average student.

    But for many athletes, the pressure can be too much. The suicide rate among college athletes is high, and from my experience, there are little to no resources provided. With the recent suicide of Washing-ton State University’s quarterback Tyler Hilinski, experts are wondering what needs to be done to prevent these tragedies.

    During my semester as an athlete, I was never told about the mental health resource center on campus. Even if I had been provided this valuable information, I wouldn’t have had time or felt comfortable going.

    Going to a therapy session on campus holds a lot of negative stigma and isn’t something most people feel comfortable doing.

    The issue of time also plays a role. After class and practice were over, it was usually pretty late in the evening… and then there’s study hall. At my previous school, six hours of study hall were mandatory every week, or you couldn’t practice or compete.

    After practice, my best friend and I would sit in a small room with no windows and swipe our ID cards. We would sit and stare at a wall for an hour every night, even if we had no homework to do.

    When study hall finished, some athletes may still have some homework to do. Or they may just want a break and to finally have some time to themselves. This doesn’t leave them a lot of time to go talk to someone about their stress, anxiety or other mental health issues. With so little free time, it feels wasteful to not relax when there’s finally a break.

    Being a student athlete is a once in a lifetime opportunity and provides wonderful life experience. I am still so close with the girls on my team, even though I live across the country now. I am grateful that I had the chance to be an athlete, but I know I would be miserable if I still was.

    Every single athlete from my club diving team who attended the University of Arizona as an athlete quit and transferred after their freshman or sophomore year. The athletes here have just as few resources as they did at my old school.

    There needs to be somewhere athletes can go and talk about the pressure and the stress that comes along with being a Division I athlete, and time needs to be set aside to do so by teams, coaches and other officials.

    The pressure from coaches, and from the entire school – especially for a quarterback at a big football school – can be too much. Without anyone to talk to, it can lead to suicide feeling like the only option. Something needs to change before another person takes their life.

    Samantha Marks is a sophomore who like to spend her free time with friends and family. Follow her on Twitter

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