• Tue. May 30th, 2023

Mountain Lion Sturdy system prioritizes student-athlete mental wellness


May 26, 2023

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When the subject of mental wellness is front and center across the nation for the duration of Could, recognized as Mental Wellness Awareness Month, it is turn out to be a basic component of the year-round student-athlete practical experience at Colorado-Colorado Springs.

The athletics division routinely holds social wellness events — gratitude game evening close to Thanksgiving, for instance — to bring student-athletes from unique teams with each other and broaden their neighborhood. Mountain Lion student-athletes run a peer-led injury assistance group. Coaches, employees and student-athlete leaders go via suicide prevention coaching. 

These are a couple of notable efforts to come from the Mountain Lion Sturdy system, one particular of 5 projects to obtain funding from the NCAA Innovations in Analysis and Practice Grant Plan in 2022. The NCAA system, which is overseen by numerous college representatives, awards $one hundred,000 total each and every year to conduct projects created to improve college athletes’ psychosocial properly-becoming and mental wellness. 

The funding Colorado-Colorado Springs received jump-began its Mountain Lion Sturdy system, an concept born from the adverse effect the COVID-19 pandemic had on student-athlete mental wellness and properly-becoming. The have to have for such applications has by no means been higher, shown by the NCAA Student-Athlete Nicely-Becoming Study, which examined the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the physical and mental properly-becoming of student-athletes for the duration of spring 2020, fall 2020 and fall 2021.

“I assume the grant’s been genuinely invaluable,” stated Jessica Kirby, an assistant professor in the Colorado-Colorado Springs college of nursing and wellness sciences who’s major the Mountain Lion Sturdy system. “The momentum distinction with the grant has been not even comparable to some points we attempted to do prior to.”

The Mountain Lion Sturdy system aims to create and pilot a extensive, proof-primarily based model that utilizes a tiered, progressive and multifaceted method to boost the psychological properly-becoming of student-athletes. 

The system focuses on 5 main pillars: identity improvement, physical and mental properly-becoming, target setting and time management, healthier relationships, and nutrition. Each and every pillar was created with a 5-stage progressive method that grows with student-athletes each and every year, from freshmen transitioning to college to graduating student-athletes needing a healthier transition out of sport. 

“This form of system is fantastic for them to obtain the education they have to have to not only get via what they are having via as college athletes but also prepare them for life immediately after college athletics,” stated Dave Hajek, baseball head coach at Colorado-Colorado Springs. 

Keegan Sueltz, who plays for Hajek and aids Kirby with the Mountain Lion Sturdy system, stated the system has broadened his point of view on what private care entails as a college athlete. 

“As athletes, I assume we never genuinely assume about all the points that we may have to have. Physical wellness is an apparent piece we all spend interest to, but we never genuinely appear at the mental wellness or social wellness or spiritual wellness,” he stated. “I assume the program’s genuinely opened my eyes and created me recognize that there is a lot a lot more to becoming a student-athlete than just the physical elements of it, that we have to have to take care of ourselves a lot more, and there is a lot of sources out there that we can tap into to aid us do that.” 

The project group hopes the Mountain Lion Sturdy system becomes a resource other NCAA schools can tap into to launch equivalent efforts on their campus. Immediately after the program’s funding period from the NCAA grant ends in July, the group will create a extensive ideal-practices guide for schools. 

Nathan Gibson, director of athletics at Colorado-Colorado Springs, spoke about the Mountain Lion Sturdy system at a panel discussion for the duration of the 2023 NCAA Convention in San Antonio. His tips for the other administrators and student-athletes in the space? 

“Never be afraid to start off. That was one particular of my fears rolling out a system like this, what you may uncover, what you may discover out. And what we identified out has been that we have some function to do, but we also have some genuinely terrific points to develop on,” he stated. “In the end what we identified is that we’re supporting our students at a a great deal larger level, we’re supporting our coaches at a a great deal larger level and we’re creating a system that is hopefully going to advantage areas beyond UCCS.”

Gibson added that the ideal spot to start off is with the student-athletes. 

Kirby intentionally created positive former and present student-athletes like Sueltz and Audrey Bloomquist, a track and field athlete, had been involved with Mountain Lion Sturdy from the starting and have continued to be involved in its improvement. 

“They know how precious this is to the future athletes coming via,” Kirby stated. “Seeing their investment so they can develop a thing for the athletes coming up that they did not have is genuinely cool to watch.”

Moreover, prior to any curriculum and sources had been made for Mountain Lion Sturdy, Kirby and her group carried out a wants assessment that integrated an electronic survey to all student-athletes, coaches and administrators. The survey was followed by a concentrate group workout with members of the school’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The wants assessment focused on understanding the group’s perceptions on the greatest perceived barriers and challenges student-athletes faced on campus, wants for assistance and sources, and applications and processes currently in spot that can be enhanced or elevated. 

The assessment straight led to the social wellness events and the peer-led injury assistance group. Other Mountain Lion Sturdy system offerings involve suicide prevention coaching, educational workshops for coaches and student-athletes, peer-led wellness sessions, ability-creating guides and target tracking, a handbook with hyperlinks to sources, and peer practical experience videos to normalize searching for aid and expanded mental wellness screenings. 

“To have the sources and the Mountain Lion Sturdy system … I assume it is exceptionally advantageous,” stated Tara Hittle, volleyball head coach. “I really feel pretty fortunate. I know our student-athletes have genuinely appreciated it. They’ve benefited from it a lot.”

Coaches have benefited, as properly. In addition to the suicide prevention coaching, coaches have gone via wellness coaching and education to introduce them to the details that their student-athletes would be exposed to and evaluate how they assistance their personal wellness. 

This component of the system fits a nationwide have to have, as evidenced by NCAA research’s current coach properly-becoming study. Of the practically six,000 coaches to take the survey, one particular-third of them reported they “frequently” or “most each day” skilled mental exhaustion, feelings of becoming overwhelmed by all that they had to do and sleep issues.

“We’ve been capable to do some points to be positive to assistance coaches to really feel like they have that education and tools to not only set the healthier regular for the athletes but also to be capable to take care of themselves simply because they are not going to be capable to coach them at their ideal if they are burned out,” Kirby stated. 

Coaches have also implemented group-precise workshops with Kirby, an aspect of the Mountain Lion Sturdy system aimed at supplementing its broader programming possibilities. These sessions variety from target setting to efficiency anxiousness to mental toughness and resilience, amongst other subjects. 

In the end, Hajek stated the program’s effect goes beyond wins and losses. Personally, it aligns with his mission as a coach that stems from his student-athlete practical experience as a baseball player at Cal Poly Pomona beneath legendary Division II coach John Scolinos.

“One particular of his phrases back in the ’80s was, ‘We’re not attempting to create large league ballplayers right here. We’re attempting to create large league guys.’ This system fits ideal into that mold,” Hajek stated. “A thing like this system has possible to attain out to an even broader atmosphere. Any way that we, as coaches, can aid the subsequent generation, that is what it is all about. You absolutely want to place a optimistic winning atmosphere with each other that is undoubtedly a thing that drives all of us coaches. But at the similar time you happen to be attempting to create young leaders, young minds who are going to have a optimistic effect on our city, our planet for the subsequent generations to come. This is the sort of issue that grows at the grassroot level that can aid.”