Student Athletes struggle with mental health


Canva illustration by Sydney Williams/ The Runner

Paige Calvin, Social Media Manager

As growing emphasis is placed on the mental health of individuals in collegiate athletics by the NCAA, university requirements and individual athletic directors, new protocols,  and more focused efforts by athletic trainers regarding mental health, are put in place in order to maintain the health and safety of student athletes across the nation, but specifically at California State University Bakersfield.  

Jessie Rogge, third year associate athletic trainer at CSUB for Women’s Volleyball & Beach Volleyball, Women’s Basketball, and Swim & Dive, has experienced first-hand the shift in job responsibilities. At the start of her career, Rogge’s priorities centered around the physical health of athlete’s bodies, yet that is quickly shifted as the department has placed greater focus on the mental health of student athletes. 

“Athletic trainers have a patient-centered care approach that is not only focused on the care of physical injuries, but also focused on the social, emotional and spiritual care of their patients. More recently, ATC’s have taken on a bigger role of providing educational services, including signs and symptoms of mental health disorders for both student athletes and coaches, as well as being a part of the referral process for student athletes that are needing additional services” Rogge said. 

Rogge comments on the importance of caring for one’s mental health, especially student athletes who are balancing numerous responsibilities. 

In general, athletes deal with a lot more than their counterparts who do not take part in athletic activity. 

“Collegiate athletes have so much on their plates including, but not limited to, balancing school, practice and weight training, time management, being away from home, outside job, social life, and keeping themselves healthy. That is only just a fraction of things that these student athletes have to deal with from their day-to-day routines.” Rogge explains.  

In addition to leaning on the trainers, athletic programs are also adding Mental Health and Sport Performance Specialists. In September, CSUB hired Lisa Bonta Sumii, a mental health therapist with over 21 years of clinical experience. Sumii emphasizes on the significance behind mental health, and the effect it has on athletic performance. 

“When we take care of ourselves as people, we perform better on and off the field of play. That care includes prioritizing our mental health, just as much as prioritizing our physical health. It also helps determine how we cope with stress, relate to others, and make choices. As an athlete, being able to impact our thoughts, name our emotions, and understand that together, they impact how we perform, is essential to perform at the highest levels.”  

“Athletes can train on mental tools to aid in the development of mental skills that help them engage their minds to positively impact their performance. For example, athletes can train on the mental tools of creating routines, goal setting, imagery, and self-talk.” 

Kevin Gowdy, current minor league baseball player for the Texas Rangers has learned a thing or two when it comes to mental skills training. 

“As you get towards the higher and highest levels of sport, you can no longer rely on talent and mental strength becomes paramount in separating the good from the great. In my opinion, mental strength is the ability to overcome the adversity that will inevitably be thrown at us, not just in competition but also in life.” 

Gowdy also states, “In my experience, the best way to overcome adversity is through your preparation. Developing a solid routine of self-talk and visualization have played a huge role in my confidence and ability to conquer adversity. The night before I pitch, I will journal about what I want to accomplish the next day. All things that are process oriented, not stats or outcome based. How I will be in control of my emotions, how I will welcome anxiety with open arms and realize it’s just my body letting me know it’s time to compete, how I will give every pitch everything I have, how I will compete with everything I have regardless of what adversity I face. This is both self-talk and visualization, and it has helped me out tremendously throughout my career.”