In a relatively recent piece in the Washington Post, Devi Jags shared an incredibly poignant glimpse into her mental health struggles as a student-athlete. She wrote:
By my junior year, I left the cross-country and track team. Months later, I was hospitalized and on suicide watch, and eventually diagnosed with bipolar depression. Luckily, my school had resources in place to accommodate my schoolwork. Professors and administrators checked in on me weekly, and I had access to on-campus counseling. But not every school has what mine did. And not every athletic program has access to a sports psychologist — a professional I (and many) needed the moment I came to campus as a student-athlete. (Jags, 2022)
Devi’s story is sounding more and more familiar, as a societal shift in perceived power has led athletes to find their voice and share their experiences. What may not be as familiar is Devi’s accurate claim that not every institution has the resources hers did.
In fact, in a study published in 2022, researchers found that only 25.7% of NCAA Division I athletic departments – only 65 out of 253 – offer some form of mental performance and/or mental health services for their athletes. To provide even more perspective, for the approximately 187,000 athletes who compete in NCAA Division I sports each year, the study found that only 99 people in the athletic department were available for mental health and performance services (Jones, Zakrajsek, & Eckenrod, 2022; NCAA, 2021).
A deeper dive into these numbers demonstrates that athletes who do not compete in the NCAA’s Division I are not receiving the support they need. Out of the 65 athletic departments with the services mentioned, 46 of them were FBS schools, and 19 were FCS schools (Jones, Zakrajsek, & Eckenrod, 2022). That few, if any, studies examine the availability of these resources at other levels of collegiate sports participation paint a dire picture for the majority of college athletes. While sports evangelists often promise life-long benefits gained through sport participation, the neglect of potential detriments is a major concern, especially related to athletes personal development in the long term.
If these numbers are concerning to you, then you are already part of the MindReady community. We exist to help tip the scales in favor of the athletes by providing mental skills coaching for entire programs, teams, coaches, and athletes. We offer research-backed, pre-designed curriculums aimed at supporting the mental aspects athletes generally need most, as well as tailored programs based on the needs of a program or team. For those who want a more specialized approach, our same elite-level mental skills coach also provide one-on-services to support the athletes who are falling through these fissures in our system. We’d love the opportunity to help you and your team think better, play better, and be happier.