Insights and tips on how to protect your athletes and teams.

Ward, Hayden
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Driving Wellbeing Initiatives in College Athletic Departments

Wellbeing For Student Athletes and Athletic Departments

After a long summer, the return of college sports and the excitement of a new academic year is finally here. However, the new school year can come with new and recurring challenges. The school landscape has changed dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic. The return to school, sports and their associated routine can impact everyone differently; therefore, it’s worth taking a proactive approach to approaching wellness during this transition.

What is Mental Wellbeing?

Your mental wellbeing includes how you think, act and feel. It also helps you cope with stress, relate to others and make decisions. According to the WHO, there’s no specific definition of mental wellbeing. However, various studies agree that achieving a state of mental wellbeing includes being able to:

  • Realize your full potential.
  • Work productively.
  • Cope with normal stresses of life.
  • Contribute meaningfully to your community.

Mental wellbeing includes mental health but goes far beyond treating mental illness. For example, you could go through a period of poor mental health but not necessarily have a diagnosable mental illness. And mental health can change over time, depending on factors such as workload, stress and work-life balance.

In any case, mental health is key in determining student athletes’ wellbeing — one that organizations can’t afford to ignore. Recent research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uncovered that nearly three-quarters (71%) of U.S. adults experience at least one adverse symptom of stress (e.g., feeling overwhelmed or anxious) each year. It has also been found that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death across all ages in the United States and the second leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 10 and 34. An NCAA survey concluded that 91% of participants felt overwhelmed during the past month and 85% felt mentally exhausted.

Why is Mental Wellbeing Important?

Mental wellbeing is tied directly to physical health. Individuals with poor mental health or untreated mental illness are at risk of developing many chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and obesity.

Poor mental health can also cause negative effects on academics and sports as well as social life. If someone has poor mental health, they may experience productivity issues such as cutting class, showing up late to practices and may experience withdrawal or feelings of loneliness. Mental health is the number 1 reason why athletes consider transferring according to the NCAA.

Checking in With Student-Athletes

Although schools may seem more normal this school year, student-athletes may experience stress and uncertainty. They may even engage in more social situations than in previous years during the pandemic, which can create different environments. 

The weight of athletic performance, interpersonal relationships and academic performance are just a few stressors student-athletes face. Not to mention scholarships, funding, transitioning to college and finding success in a post-athletic career. These can all directly impact performance in sports and the student-athletes wellness. While there have been tremendous strides made in opening the discussion about mental wellbeing, athletics departments can offer support.

What are the Signs?

While there is no standardized screening measure to evaluate wellbeing, it’s important to watch for the signs. Though mental health professionals are becoming members of athletic department medical teams, you should still monitor for signs of anxiety or distress within your teams, coworkers and even yourself. Be on the lookout for changes in behavior and mood or physical symptoms, such as:

  • Increased defiance or irritability
  • Disturbances in sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of concentration
  • Less energy
  • Sadness or crying
  • Nausea, muscle tension or dizziness
  • Refusal to go to school or engage in virtual schoolwork
  • Refusal to go to practice

Humans are resilient beings, but it’s still important to pay attention to signs of anxiety — and seek professional support if any warning signs persist.

What Can You Do to Help Support Mental Wellbeing?

Foster a supportive and encouraging culture. First and foremost, it’s critical to promote a culture that prioritizes mental health and wellbeing. In doing so, your student-athletes, coaches and other team members will know they are valued, and you are invested in their overall health and happiness. Often, athletic departments as a whole are carrying a wave of stress on them. Having a supportive culture in place will also help others lead by example, highlighting the importance of maintaining a work-sports-life balance and establishing a more open dialogue surrounding mental health topics.

Taking Care of Yourself

With school back in session, here are some healthy ways for you to make the school year more manageable and balance your work and personal responsibilities:

  • Set reasonable expectations. Establish realistic expectations about what you think you can accomplish each day or week. Don’t be hard on yourself. Cut yourself some slack and focus on completing your responsibilities.
  • Develop a schedule. Creating a routine that works around your work schedule and family needs is essential. You spend a lot of time at the university tending to others’ needs. Keep to your schedule so you can also have a sustainable work-life balance.
  • Create healthy habits. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat well so you can be fully charged to take on the day. It’s also important to stay active and incorporate movement into your daily routine.
  • Ask for help. Lean on your networks for support if you need help getting through the workdays. Don’t wait to ask others for help if you’re overwhelmed. Be honest and communicative with your family and team members if the current situation isn’t working well.

It’s also important to recognize your unhealthy coping methods and find alternatives such as meditating, exercising or talking with a friend.

CBIZ Borden Perlman Sports Here For You

Although school is back in session and starting to resemble the pre-pandemic days, everyone may still seem stretched thin balancing school, sports and their lives at home. At CBIZ Borden Perlman Sports, student-athlete wellbeing is one of our highest priorities. We are here to provide you and your teams with ongoing support throughout life and on the field. Our policy offers a comprehensive approach to mental health initiatives with 24/7/365 access. To learn more about how CBIZ Borden Pearlman Sports can protect your teams, connect with us today.

This blog may contain scenarios that are provided as examples only. In an actual claim situation, coverage is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy issued. The information provided is general in nature and may be affected by changes in law or the interpretation of such laws. The reader is advised to contact a professional prior to taking any action based upon this information.

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CBIZ Borden Perlman Sports, a division of CBIZ Insurance Services, Inc., is one of the largest insurers of collegiate athletic programs in the United States. As part of an $850 million New York Stock Exchange-traded company (CBZ), we developed a program to meet the needs for those in the athletic sports industry. We have been in the intercollegiate sports industry since 1990.

The CBIZ Borden Perlman Sports team knows insurance, specifically the risks and exposures related to intercollegiate insurance. With hands-on, personal customer service, we guarantee swift communication and a claims team that is ready to respond to your needs. As specialists in the industry, we leverage our knowledge and passion to ensure your teams are superiorly protected.