As a follow-up to the 2020 NCAA student-athlete welfare studies, student-athletes continue to report high levels of mental health concerns.
The data show that rates of mental fatigue, anxiety and depression have changed little since the fall of 2020 and remain 1.5 or twice as high as those identified before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, student-athletes in the fall of 2021 had lower expectations than in the first year of the pandemic.
The whole association survey, which was open from November 17 to December. 13, had responses from more than 9,800 student-athletes. The NCAA research was designed in collaboration with the NCAA Sport Science Institute and in collaboration with Division I, II, and III Student-Athlete Advisory Committees.
This study did not measure student-athlete responses compared to the general college student population, which also addresses these mental health issues.
When it came to answering questions about mental health support, 69% of women’s sports participants and 63% of men’s sports participants agreed or strongly agreed that they knew where to go on campus if they had mental health concerns.
Under the NCAA’s constitution, each member school is committed to facilitating an environment that strengthens physical and mental health within athletics, ensuring access to appropriate resources and an open commitment to physical and mental health.
But when asked if they would feel comfortable seeking the help of a mental health provider on campus, less than half of women’s and men’s sports participants responded that they would agree or strongly agree with this statement (48% and 46%, respectively).
Continuing outreach efforts on campus is a way to try to change the disconnect between knowing where to go if you have mental health issues and feeling comfortable seeking that help.
“There are a lot of conversations going on on campus about mental health that are affecting a lot of people in this direction,” said Scott Hamilton, a mental health clinical consultant at DePauw. “Are there any teams on campus, either through the athletics department or through counseling services, that use their voice to help reduce stigma?”
He is also the mental health coordinator for student-athletes at Hamilton DePauw. In this role, Hamilton has seen first-hand how the attitudes of student-athletes can change.
He said it is fascinating to do mindfulness training or psychological flexibility with a team.
“In a week or two, you’ll start to see some familiar faces at the counseling center,” said Hamilton, who has worked at DePauw for 12 years. “When college campuses are ready for open conversations about the importance of mental health, mindfulness can ease the fear of student-athletes seeking help.”
The Sport Science Institute provides health and safety resources for college athletes, coaches, athletics administrators, and campus partners. Mental health education resources include a review of best practices, data and research, and summits and working groups.
The survey included a question about whether team members take each other’s mental health concerns seriously. 65% of female sports participants and 58% of male sports participants agreed or strongly agreed to do so. In this regard, 56% of both male and female sports participants reported knowing how to help a teammate with a mental health problem.
When asked if their mental health was a priority for their athletics department, 55% of male sports participants and 47% of female sports student-athletes agreed or strongly agreed.
When coaches were asked to take their mental health concerns seriously, 59% of male sports participants agreed or strongly disagreed, and 50% of female sports participants did so.
Mental health concerns during the pandemic
Mental health concerns remain among the demographic subgroups of student-athletes that typically show higher rates of mental distress (women, student-athletes, those identified on the queer spectrum, and those who report family economic hardship).
This survey, along with the previous two surveys, asked participants whether they felt mentally tired, had difficulty sleeping, felt overwhelmed with anxiety, felt sad, felt a sense of loss, or felt hopeless.
The biggest drop in the percentage point was among female athletes surveyed in terms of feeling very lonely or hopeless.
Sixteen percent of women’s sports participants said they felt very lonely constantly or mostly on a daily basis, a 5 percent drop compared to the 2020 fall survey. Ten percent of women’s sports respondents said they felt hopeless, compared to 16% in the previous survey.
38% of women’s sports enthusiasts and 22% of men’s sports participants reported feeling constant or mostly mental fatigue on a daily basis, the most common concerns.
Student athletes expressed more optimism about their ability to follow and pass the fall 2021 courses compared to the spring and fall of 2020.
Half of the student-athletes were satisfied with their ability to find a balance between academics and extracurricular activities, including athletics. The self-reported balance was higher among male athletes (56%) than among female athletes (47%).
Since the government structure of Division I changed the rules for single-exception transfers before the inclusion of baseball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s ice hockey before the 2021-22 school year, transfers have become a hotter topic among the media and fans.
8% of all student-sports respondents indicated that they were likely to transfer at some point during the 2021-22 school year.
Mental health (61% of women’s sports participants, 40% of men’s sports participants), conflicts with coaches or teammates (56% women’s sports participants, 34% men’s sports participants) and play time (34% women’s sports participants recipients, 36% male sports participants). ) were the most cited reasons for considering transfers, among those who considered doing so at some point during the year.
Racial and gender equality
Student athletes continue to volunteer in their communities, participate in social and civic engagement activities, and learn more about injustice on their own.
84% of women’s sports respondents and 78% of men’s sports respondents said they volunteered occasionally or frequently. Two-thirds of male and female sports participants said they occasionally or frequently discussed politics.
In terms of commitment to racial justice over the past six months, 81% of women’s sports participants and 73% of men’s sports participants took an active role in learning more about race or racial justice on their own. More than 60% of both women’s and men’s sports participants said they had had conversations with teammates about race or racial justice.
Regarding gender equality, 72% of female sports participants and 56% of male sports participants stated that they were actively trying to learn more about gender equality on their own. 58% of women and 46% of men had occasional or frequent conversations with team members about gender equity.
Student athletes expressed the greatest desire for educational resources on tax and financial literacy; career planning; navigating name, image, and similarity options; and professional sports opportunities.
50% of female sports participants and 49% of male sports participants wanted more resources on tax literacy and education.
When it comes to navigating NIL options, 42% of male sports participants and 39% of female sports participants said they wanted more educational resources.
41% of male sports participants and 35% of female sports respondents wanted resources about their professional opportunities in the sport.