October 22, 2018

Statistics show uptick in stress levels for first-year athletes

Recent studies have offered that one in every three first-year college students suffer through some sort of mental health and stress problem, with issues such as homesickness and the increased academic workload as a key reason why.

For some first-year students, such as sophomore women’s basketball player Darieana Hunter, adding the responsibility of being a student-athlete to that equation nearly proved to be one responsibility too many.

“At one point I wanted to quit basketball because I felt that I just could not balance everything and do it,” Hunter said. “Along with the preseason it was very hard and I just didn’t feel very confident within myself.”

Hunter’s struggle represents common problem among student-athletes. In 2016, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) conducted their third student-athlete survey, which showed that among Division III athletes, 63 percent of women and 56 percent of women reported that they would prefer to spend more time at home or with family.

The survey also measured how confident students were at juggling both academic and athletic responsibilities. In Division III, three in every ten students responded without confidence in their abilities, a number that continually shrinks with Division II and Division I.

Webster University men’s tennis sophomore Courtland Butler said the transition was initially easy, but once the season started, the process took time to adjust to.

“It got harder to manage time when the season came,” Butler said. “But I was able to do it by making sure I knew my priorities and I had to actually start planning set times to do homework.”

The NCAA survey did, however, cite an increased trend in relationship development for first-year student athletes. Both men and women were above 66 percent in responding that they had created a strong relationship with at least one faculty member, something both Butler and men’s cross country sophomore Nathan Freyling saw as major positives during their adjustments.

For the second time in three years, this year’s version of the men’s soccer team is without a senior. Of the team’s seven players, three are freshmen. Freyling said that the strong player-coach relationships were a must.

“With the cross country team being very young I think we have all just looked to Coach Graber and Coach Niehaus for guidance and listening and trusting what they wants us to do in workouts/races and in the weight room,” Freyling said. “We are also a very close group and we know that we can go to each other whenever we need it.”

Butler said that if he could change anything about his freshman year, he would have interacted with more non-athletes in attempt to broaden himself out.

Hunter, Butler and Freyling have each either started their sophomore years as student-athletes or are in the process of doing so. Each player expressed more confidence in knowing what being a student-athlete requires. For Freyling, the season has offered success already.

During the Brissman-Lundeen Invitationals, the Freyling led all Gorloks to a 10th place finish.Despite a lack of experience, Freyling spoke positively of the race and the future of the team.

“I came up on mile 4 out of 5 and I saw a couple teammates behind me (Colton Vaughn and Javier Cervantes) and I thought that if I picked up the pace a bit that they would pick it up as well to try to stay with me,” Freyling said. “We all finished and I know that our top 5 boys were really proud of what we ran. I think that this team will be able to do big things this year and down the road in later years as well.”

Optimism is high for Hunter, who begins year two as the new Student Government Association (SGA) Senator at Large, with plans of extending gym time for student-athletes such as herself. Women’s basketball will not begin until Nov. 3.

For Butler, whose season does not kick off until Feb. 23, he said that using that creating new conversations will be the key to an even more successful second year as a student-athlete.

“For my second year in tennis, I just want to be the best player I can be,” Butler said. I want to be a great tennis player, and I have worked hard all summer. I plan on cementing my spot in the rotation and playing my heart out. As a team, I plan for everyone to have really good seasons, and I want us to be number one in the conference. I really think we can do it.”

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