Student Athletes Grapple with Balancing Schedules and Mental Health

Aman Jaleel, Ethan Vicknair, and Sydney Chien

Stress levels across campus have risen as college applications, teacher comments and standardized testing have piled on. When athletics are put into the mix, students become stressed.

“This year, students are more stressed than ever,” Director of Sports Performance Jessen Houston said.

Student-athletes face pressure, both on and off the field. To play at peak performance, athletes must be physically, mentally and emotionally ready. Athletes are told to eat healthy, practice efficiently and think positively.

“Your mental health affects how you play both in practices and in games 100% of the time,” Houston said. “If we have players who think they won’t be able to do well, inevitably they’re not going to do well.”

Coaches have adjusted schedules and shortened practices to make sure student-athletes can combat anxiety and focus on other priorities.

Head of Athletics Jarrett Shine said he works to make sure athletics doesn’t prevent students from participating in other activities.

“There are a lot of kids who like to do a lot of different things here, so we try to be the type of school that allows flexibility,” Shine said. “It’s up to us as adults to make sure we’re working together to create harmony in what they’re doing between different activities.”

Coaches have opened dialogue with students about mental and emotional health, and Houston says he regularly sends out surveys to his students to check in on them.

“We try to pinpoint on a weekly basis where students are mentally,” Houston said. “How much sleep are they getting? What’s their level of anxiety? What’s their mood?”

Coaches will adjust their schedules to accommodate students, shortening practices or having lighter practices than usual.

“We talk to all the coaches and program heads on a routine basis, to get an assessment on how good the team is doing,” Houston said. “From what we’ve gathered from the coaches we talk to, every team is feeling stress.  I’ve been coaching for twenty years, and I can say it’s more prevalent than ever.”

When schedules can’t be adjusted or when coaches don’t see when a student is stressed, it’s up to students to support each other in any possible way.

“We come in every week with a really positive attitude,” Varsity Football Captain Josh Titens said.

The football team does their best to keep each other motivated through team bonding activities including dinner or lunch together every other week said Titens.

Girls Varsity Volleyball Captain Tatum Sims says her team has a similar mindset.

“As a team in volleyball, we all are very supportive and encouraging of each other to create a positive and fun environment,” Sims said. “Our coach works on confidence-building and positive mindsets with our team, and we all consciously try to be very uplifting and inspiring towards one another.”

Being mentally prepared for daily practices and weekly games is difficult, which is why it’s important for both athletes and coaches to maintain awareness of mental health and do team activities that alleviate stress.