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Ella D. '24 - The Player Project

The inspiration: I noticed there were many programs in place supporting athletes' physical health but nothing about mental health. As I dug deeper into my research, I realized there was a large stigma surrounding mental health in student-athletes, ultimately making it a difficult topic to discuss. I experienced this firsthand in Middle School, which inspired me to make these workshops and tools so that other athletes know they aren’t alone in their thoughts. I wanted to continue to shed light and talk about the importance of mental health.

The process: I started off knowing I wanted to do something related to athletics but I wasn't sure which route I wanted to choose. I talked with my soccer coach Casey looking for some advice and when he brought up mental health, I was reminded of my personal experience in Middle School. I reflected on my own experiences and realized how much I wished there was something in place to educate younger athletes that feelings like anxiety and depression are normal; if I had known, I would have had an easier time. I created interactive workshops to educate student-athletes so they know what they're feeling is normal, even for athletes.

What I learned: The whole project was a wonderful self reflection. I never would have sat down and done so much research on something so personal until Junior Workshop presented itself. Not only did I feel less alone knowing so many other athletes felt the same ways I did, but I also felt so accomplished when coaches at Calhoun started noticing and appreciating the work I was doing and asked me to continue it. I didn't realize how much of an impact it would have, but once I started I didn't want to stop.

What's next: Casey and Zimmer, the Interim Director of Athletics, asked me to be the first student to come to the coaches' winter workshop this year and talk to a sports psychologist. I am now not only using my research and work to educate student-athletes, but I am also using it to teach coaches. I also plan to continue doing my workshops over this year, work with my club members to continue the education process, and hopefully pass it down to a younger peer to continue on my work after I graduate.