Well-Being of Student Athletes
As a student athlete, I have come to recognize some issues that have circulating within our athletic department, my team (Women’s Basketball) and myself. After researching the policy in the 2018-2019 NCAA Division I Manual section 2.2, The Principle of Student-Athlete Well-Being policy, I have noticed this policy is not aligned as nicely as the NCAA proposed it to. I want to present this issue and some recommendations to you, our athletic director, as you have a great deal of control within our athletic department.
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Within this policy, there are multiple subcategories that can better explain the issues present in our athletic department. These include the overall educational experience, cultural diversity and gender equity, health and safety, student-athlete/coach relationship, fairness, openness and honesty, and lastly, student athlete involvement. I have seen and heard these different subcategories violated within our athletic department.
The over view of this policy is the idea that well-being is vital for student athletes. I am concerned with the well-being of our student athletes as I am writing you this policy brief. Going further into this policy issue, there are subcategories that I explained previously.
The first issue in our athletic department regarding the well-being of student athletes is the overall educational experience. In our athletic department, athletics is not the main priority. In our simple title, “student athlete”, student comes first. Mark Emmert, the NCAA President continuously uses this term to his benefit when discussing if student athletes should be paid. “No, they are student athletes” he continuously repeats. As a student athlete here, I have taken notice that our student status is not being taken seriously. Some athletes are pushed into certain “easier” majors, and some are even taking “easy” classes to ensure they pass their class to stay edible. This is not healthy for our overall well-being as a student athlete.
Another issue is the lack of cultural diversity and gender equity. Being an African American woman, I have taken notice of this lack of diversity. With this, I have noticed the amount of student athletes that are African American and how the sports some of them play are the money makers in our athletic department. With this, they are lacking diverse coaches. These student athletes are being taught by white men. I will further explain how this will be damaging to the well-being of our student athletes later in this policy brief.
Regarding two subcategories, health and safety, and fairness, openness and honesty I have seen issue with these as well. These issues include the mental health of our student athletes and how there is a lack of fairness, openness and honesty within some of our athletic teams. I will recommend how these can be changed for the betterment of the athletic department.
Student athletes work every day with their coaches. I have first-hand witnessed some problems regarding the student athlete and coach relationship on our Women’s basketball team. This relationship is vital for the well-being of our athletes, team, and athletic department. Some student athletes cannot come to practice every day and have unhealthy relationships with their coaches. It is not beneficial to their well-being as student athletes for our university.
The last issue that is present in our athletic department regarding well-being of student athletes is student athlete involvement. Our students are lacking opportunities to be involved not only in our athletic department, but also our university. I have experienced this first hand. We do not have the time and access to different programs to benefit our social lives and our network for our futures. If this is changed, it will benefit our student athlete’s well-being while here at our university and in their future after sport.
Before explaining my recommendations to these issues, I first want to explain the history and background of well-being and why it is not only important to student athletes, but also human beings. I will use Erik Angner’s article, “The envolution of eupathics; The historical roots of subjective measures of well-being” to help me explain the background and the importance of well-being of student athletes.
There are different ways to measure well-being, these measures are designed to represent things like happiness, satisfaction or the “other” positive or desirable mental states a human may have (Angner, 2011). Although it is a very important topic, mental illness is often confused with well-being. Well-being is promoting an overall positive health for people. The science of happiness was presented in 1917 that described a “discipline of ‘eupathics’, defined as the study of ‘the well-being of the normal” (Angner, 2011, pg. 7).
There are a few different categories that cover this study of well-being. First was the educational psychology aspect, Angner explains the important of an education to well-being. He explains his research with graduate students that “tended to think of themselves as above the average on each happiness item” (Angner, 2011, pg. 8). This is so important to prove that education for our student athletes is vital for their well-being. In addition, the personality psychology aligns with the NCAA subcategories of Cultural Diversity and gender equity, and Student-Athlete involvement but can also align with all of them in one way or another.
From Angner’s research and what I have gathered from my own research, well-being is a serious topic not only in athletics, but in everyone’s lives. Because of this research that proves the need for established well-being, it proves even more appropriate to present to you my policy brief to get much needed change for the benefit of our athletic program and for our student athletes.
As explained previously, I want to present you, athletic director, alternatives that may benefit our student athletes and their well-being. Regarding student athletes overall educational experience, there needs to more of an emphasis on academics. As a student athlete, we are considered first a student. There are issues regarding student athletes versus the general student boy and some African American student athletes having a harder time with academics.
One of the reasons that academics does not seem as prioritized as athletics in our athletic department is because of the athletic time demands. We constantly have to “sacrifice attention to academics, making it difficult for [us] to devote time to study or earn good grade” (Aries, et al., 2004, pg. 578). Another researcher, Scisclo concluded from his research that “the role of hope and psychological need support be addressed as to the effects these variables have on academic performance and well-being” (Scisclo, 2018, pg.121).
African American student athletes bring in a lot of revenue for our university, yet there are statistics that report that “Black student athletes’ graduation rate at 67% is lower than White student athletes’ graduation rate of 86%” (Ambaw, Y., et al., 2017, pg.1). This directly shows the issue that student athlete’s number one goal isn’t graduation if the revenue athletes are graduating at a lower rate than the White student athletes.
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If we make a change with academics in our athletic department it will benefit the well-being of our student athletes and will benefit our eligibility as a university as well. Although it may decrease the amount of time put towards practice and training, it will overall benefit our student athletes. Moving forward we need to get a plan with academics, administration and coaches to get the student athletes to be able to prioritize academics more.
Regarding Cultural Diversity and gender equity, our athletic departmentcan enhance the well-being of our student athletes by having diversity in the hiring process and by integrating more programs that student athletes have to attend. There is research I want to explain regarding how African American student athletes are affected by this and how social capital of diversity and gender equity benefits the student athletes.
Like mentioned before, many of the revenue generating sport athletes are African Americans. There are also “cultural assumptions… that [African Americans] are naturally gifted and that they should excel in athletics” (Ambaw, Y., et al., 2017, pg.10). With this, we have to allow our student athletes to be culturally aware and diverse in our athletic department and expand their thoughts on topics.
With this diversity comes the need of gender equity as well. After looking at Clopton’s research, I found that “male student athletes…in individual sports report higher levels of social networks, trust, and social capital…” while team sports do not. “With female student athletes, the inverse is true, as female athletes in team sports report higher levels than those females on individual-sport teams” (Clopton, 2012, pg. 5).
Moving forward, we need to establish more programs promoting diversity and strive for more diversity while hiring in the athletic department. This will directly be involving you, our athletic director, as well as staff that will affiliated with these diversity programs.
Health and safety, and fairness, openness and honesty are a must in our athletic department. Mental health awareness is vital to the well-being of our student athletes. I would propose a training with all of staff and athletes, including coaches and support staff.
Health and safety needs to be a top priority in our athletic department. After research on student athlete depression, Yang, et al. reported that “twenty-one percent of participants reported experiencing symptoms of depression” (Yang, et al., 2007, pg.1).
Health and safety, and fairness, openness and honesty is necessary for an over-all healthy student athlete. There is research done by Petterson and Olson that shows that “mindfulness-based interventions” can help manage negative emotions and perceived stress (Petterson and Olson, 2017, pg.579). As an athletic department, including student athletes, coaches, administration and support staff need to be prepared with how to promote positive mental health and how to help those with mental health issues.
The student athlete and coach relationship should be one important parts of this policy brief to you. The relationship between these two parties is vital to a winning and successful program. Coaches behaviors can affect student athlete’s well-being, in addition, administration affect the well-being of student athletes. There needs to be more of awareness of this.
After researching the affects that coaches have on student athletes, Yukhymenko-Lescroart, et al. concluded that “both ethical and abusive coaching behaviors have unique impacts on important student-athlete outcomes” (Yukhymenko-Lescroart, et al., 2015, pg. 8) Another research article I found concluded that “sport psychologists should inform coaches and parents the importance of providing social support” (Katagami and Tsuchiya, 2017, pg.11). From multiple sources, it shows the importance of the relationship of coaches and athletes.
Lastly, I want to explain the importance of student athlete involvement regarding well-being. Things like leadership, social involvement and networking are so imperative in student athletes lives. There needs to be programs implemented in our athletic program that promotes this involvement and skill building.
Leadership is not always a born skill, Navarro and Malvaso concluded that there needs to be a “department-wide buy-in” with the development of personal leadership skills (Navarro & Malvaso, 2015, p.46). Gayles and Hu did research on student involvement and concluded that “student athletes, suggest that college athletes can benefit from increased college engagement in ways similar to the general student population” (Gayles & Hu, 2009, pg.329). This shows that it is vital for us student athletes to have opportunities to get involved.
In order to get our student athletes involved in our athletic department and on campus, we need to create opportunities. To get this moving forward we need to create opportunities for student athletes and promote involvement.
In order to better the academic experience for student athletes, we need to make academics a priority in our department. In order to become more diverse and gender inclusive, we need to have programs for student athletes and hire a more diverse group of individuals. Health and safety and fairness, openness and honesty is vital because mental health is a serious issue and should not be over looked. The relationship between student athlete and coach is very important in our athletic department because this relationship holds a huge responsibly for the well-being of student athletes and the success of our athletic teams. And lastly, student athlete involvement benefits the well-being of student athletes.
Concluding my discussion on the policy of the NCAA (2.2) well-being for student athlete’s policy, I want to reiterate the importance of well-being for student athletes. In order to develop and graduate prepared graduates we need allow their time as a student athlete to be healthy. The well-being of student athletes is more than important as described in this policy, and I hope you, athletic director, agree with my peers and myself.
- Ambaw, Y., Ranney, Molly, Campbell, Venetta, & Pasztor, Eileen. (2017). Promoting the Well-being of Black Student Athletes: A Grant Proposal, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.
- Angner, E. (2011). The evolution of eupathics: The historical roots of subjective measures of wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 1(1), 4-41.
- Aries, E., McCarthy, D., Salovey, P. et al. Research in Higher Education (2004) 45: 577. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.ou.edu/10.1023/B:RIHE.0000040264.76846.e9
- Clopton, A. (2012). Social Capital, Gender, and the Student Athlete. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 16(4), 272-288.
- Gayles, J., & Hu, S. (2009). The Influence of Student Engagement and Sport Participation on College Outcomes Among Division I Student Athletes. The Journal of Higher Education, 80(3), 315-333.
- Katagami, Eriko, & Tsuchiya, Hironobu. (2017). Effects of Received Social Support on Athletes’ psychological well-being. International Journal of Sport and Health Science, Advpub(0), 72-80.
- Navarro, K., & Malvaso, S. (2015). Toward an Understanding of Best Practices in Student-Athlete Leadership Development Programs: Student-Athlete Perceptions and Gender Differences. Journal of Applied Sport Management, 7(3), N/a.
- Petterson, H., & Olson, B. (2017). Effects of Mindfulness-Based Interventions in High School and College Athletes for Reducing Stress and Injury, and Improving Quality of Life. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 26(6), 578-587.
- Scislo, Brian. (2018). The Role of Hope and Psychological Need Support in the Prediction of Academic Achievement and Psychological Well-Being of NCAA Division I Student-Athletes.
- Yang, J., Peek-Asa, C., Corlette, J., Cheng, G., Danny, T., & Albright, J. (2017). Prevalence of and risk factors associated with symptoms of depression in competitive collegiate student athletes. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine., 17(6), 481-487.
- Yukhymenko-Lescroart, M., Brown, M., Paskus, T., & Martin, Jeffrey J. (2015). The Relationship Between Ethical and Abusive Coaching Behaviors and Student-Athlete Well-Being. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 4(1), 36-49.
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