The Slippery Rock University Counseling Center hosted its first “Athlete Support Group” of the semester this past Monday. The amount of students involved was almost double the participation at the end of the fall semester.
The meeting was held online from 7-8 p.m., and moderated by two faculty members of the Student Counseling Center.
The purpose of the support group is to provide student athletes a safe space to discuss problems and difficulties that may arise while being a student athlete during a pandemic. Due to the pandemic, most athletes are not able to play their respective sports, which can be challenging to some people.
From this Athlete Support Group, students will have a safe place to come and discuss anything they want as well as learn constructive techniques to combat any problems students may encounter.
John Mathe, who is a moderator and counselor for the Support Group, compared this inability to play due to the pandemic to an inability to play due to an injury. Visualizing this comparison helps students to understand that not being able to play is not a new thing and that there are techniques to help deal with it.
Some techniques include talking out thoughts and feelings. Some challenges that athletes are facing are more than not being able to play. Many are dealing with general anxieties and other struggles. The Student Athlete Support Group is meant to help with all challenges that student athletes may be facing right now.
“Student athletes have a tough mentality when it comes to physical injuries. Depression and anxiety, which aren’t seen the same way, are harder to cope with,” Mathe said.
In the Athlete Support Group, issues are discussed in accordance with the participating athletes’ needs. If the group wants to talk about a certain topic, then the conversation will be tailored to that topic. This freedom of discussion allows for student needs to directly be addressed, as opposed to vague conversations.
In the Support Group, students are welcome to talk about anything they want or anything that they feel they should be said to the group. In response, Mathe talks about why those thoughts or feelings are caused as well as possible solutions if desired.
Additionally, the entire conversation is held as a collective discussion, encouraging all participating students to engage with the discussion.
Talking about mental health and having hard conversations in a safe space is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially during the pandemic. At the Athlete Support Group, these conversations are held with trust and with honesty. Students are encouraged to share how they are feeling, with no expectations whatsoever from the rest of the group. A willingness to meet new people and to trust them is instrumental to having a successful support club.
Some of the advice and key topics that were discussed at the past meeting include balancing elements in life, adapting to everyday life, setting goals for themselves and for each other, planning ahead, comfortability with oneself and having empathy for others. By the end of the meeting, many participants were happy with the discussions held, and excited for future meetings.
Mathe offered some advice to students who may be struggling, “Anything you’re feeling – sadness, anger, frustration, lonely – find someone to talk to. It will be so much better for you. There will always be a friend, coach, teammate, or someone who will be there for you.”
The Athlete Support Group meets every Monday at 7 p.m., with the Zoom link being available on CORE.