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The Convo on Ohio University's campus houses the athletic department. (FILE) 

New mental health position in OU athletic department designed to help student athletes

Ohio University created a position within the athletic department this past year to allow student athletes access to a psychologist specialized in athletics. 

The new position was created after confusion regarding what to do in severe situations involving student athletes’ mental health.

Michelle Pride, a psychologist who specializes in athletics, said in an email that she now works at the Convocation Center two days a week, providing individual and crisis counseling to athletes. She consults with coaches, athletic trainers and also does outreach and presentations with teams.

Emily Deering, a senior on the women’s track & field team and president of the student-athlete advisory committee, said there wasn’t a procedure or policy in place that all students or coaches could refer to in situations where self-harm, suicide and mental health were concerned.  

“At our last senior staff meeting I passed out some testimonies from student athletes who have used her services and I think first and foremost the athletic department’s ability to take student athlete feedback and put it into a full blown position, that has shown tremendous success,” Deering said.

Pride said some of the most common reasons why student athletes visit her is for anxiety, depression, eating concerns, relationship issues, performance related issues, graduation, career, academic concerns and identity issues. 

Working with student athletes is similar to working with other students, Pride said, however, there are considerable differences. Things like schedules, relationships with the coaching staff and teammates, the role sports plays in shaping identity and the time commitment that sports require are a few.

“The embedded position has made it easier for many students to access services because they do not have to walk across campus to get to the Hudson Health Center and attempt to schedule things between class and practice and other obligations,” Pride said.

One of the most important qualities a student athlete should have is time management skills, Deering said. The key to combating a heavy schedule is to be passionate about what you do and what you believe in, and to have good self reflection skills.

As for now, Pride said she doesn’t have any suggestions about what can be improved within the athletic department or specific sports teams at OU, however, she would like to take time to figure out what’s working and what’s not before making any major changes. 

She frequently meets with the deputy athletic director to assess how the services are used by athletes, and what changes and improvements could be made at the end of the spring semester. 

Pride’s position is partially funded by athletics, allowing her to be available in the convocation center only two days a week, while she works out of the Center for Psychological Services at Hudson Health the other three days of the week.

“There are discussions occurring about how this position will be funded in the future,” Pride said in an email. “However, at this time, I’m not sure what that might look like or how it might change the hours or staffing of the position.”

Deering said the athletic department should inform prospective student athletes that they’re not just here to service the physical body, but they are also there for the athlete in a holistic approach. 

Mike Ashcraft, assistant athletics director for media relations, said the NCAA Eligibility and Student-Athlete Success staff on campus has academic coordinators who work with student athletes to help them monitor their GPA and other things.  

The board of trustees also passed a resolution in October 2018 emphasizing OU’s alignment with the Association of Governing Boards specific guidance and advice on the monitoring of intercollegiate athletic programs and the welfare of the student athletes in them. 

“Our recent action in October further emphasized that alignment, including the ongoing institutional responsibility and accountability for this oversight, with a resolution,” David Scholl, chair of OU board of trustees said.


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