• Lillie Burke

Campus climate: Student athletes reflect on mental health

For Belmont student athletes, mental health doesn’t take a backseat to physical health.

“If you aren’t healthy mentally, you are not going to perform well in school and on the court,” said junior volleyball player Mackenzie LePage.

At this midpoint in the fall semester, student volleyball, baseball and basketball players reflected on how they bridged the gap between physical and mental health.

LePage’s experience as a volleyball player taught her the importance of staying mentally healthy, which complements the spirit of teamwork she hopes to embody on and off the court.

“I think the most important thing is staying true to our teammates,” LePage said. “Telling everyone how we are doing, keeping up with each other and making sure we are all good is very important.”

For senior basketball player Maddie Wright, knowing the value of seeing beyond the 40 minutes on the court, the hours spent in the locker rooms and the long nights on buses is what’s important to stay completely healthy.

“Being a collegiate athlete, everything we do is performance-based, and sometimes we take that off the court and apply that to the classroom and relationships, and that can be kind of tough on your mental health,” Wright said. “But learning to grow with the game and learning that your life is more than just sports in college has definitely helped that.”

For Wright, basketball is more than just a game, and it has the ability to unite student athletes toward the common goal of building a community as well as a competitive team.

“Being a senior, I don’t want to miss anything,” Wright said. “And sometimes all this stuff gets so muddled that you miss where your feet are.”

For junior baseball player Jackson Campbell, it’s the sense of brotherhood within his team that keeps him grounded.

“I think just being positive for one another and being there for one another helps with all of our mental states because we all have to go through it together,” Campbell said.

Knowing the strain of being a student athlete, Campbell remains positive.

“It’s a job, so I feel like if you don’t enjoy it, it’s probably going to wear on you, but just stay positive and look at everything as your job,” Campbell said.

Some athletes, like sophomore volleyball player Mary Catherine Ball, find that having open conversations about mental health is what really helps in the long run.

“A lot of the time if you say you’re struggling mentally, it’s considered a weakness,” Ball said. “In the past it was about staying tough and getting through it. Now it’s about talking through it and finding your resources and community.”

An important commonality for athletes is their commitment to checking in on their teammates.

“We’ve played well the last four years, but I am most proud of the team chemistry and the culture that’s been able to remain the last four years for the team and the sisterhood it is,” Wright said.

Student athletes are able to see the bigger picture, recognizing that their lives are about more than just sports.

“You take a step back and realize there is more to it, and your worth is not just in what you play.”

This article written by Evan Dorian. Photo by Sam Simpkins.

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