Sports is part of our lives it doesn’t matter if you are not a sporting elite. It all begins in middle school where all of us are expected to participate in gym class then off to high school where almost everyone participates in sports. However, it is in college where the pros establish themselves in various sports.  

The best coach in college sports though may be someone off the field. Yes, it’s a psychologist we are talking about. 

College athletes are said to be the creme de creme of the institution. However what many people do not know is that they face stress which can affect the stability of their mental health. 

Factors that cause stress in college athletes include: 

  • High-performance demands.
  • Fatigue from practice and matches.
  • Scrutiny from society.

There is a need for people and athletes to understand the implications that sports can have on the mental stability of a college student. Studies show that there are high chances that an athlete could develop disorders due to mental stress compared to a non-athlete.

Are there any effective approaches that can be used to improve mental health in college athletes?

Most colleges have adopted a support system in family, coaches, teammates and psychological sessions are mostly what makeup therapy sessions. The worst thing is that colleges rely on physical symptoms for them to realize that an athlete has a psychological problem. This has proven a bit risky because many athletes suffer in silence for a long period until it is too late.

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However, the National Institute of Drug Abuse conducted a study to examine how they can tackle mental health.  They came up with an approach known as the optimization approach to mental health.

What is the optimization approach?

 This approach takes into account that an athlete can receive mental help regardless of the severity of the physical symptoms. The optimization approach teaches athletes that their performance is influenced by their thoughts, behaviours and emotions. Therefore if you have negative thoughts then most likely you will perform poorly in your sport.

The optimization approach takes into account that mental illness can occur if you fail to take control of your emotions. Therefore once athletes are taught to control their emotions they can be able to participate in sports effectively.

The  University of Kansas is one of the few universities which implemented the optimization approach. They developed a new Optimum Performance Program in Sports, (TOPPS) which helped the basketball team with their mental health. Since this was a new thing in the university, there was a need to educate every student about TOPPA. Thus they branded t-shirts, water bottles and even hang banners.

The benefits of TOPPS included:

  • Helped athletes embrace the culture and understand the impact it has on sports.
  • Athletes were taught about performance planning. 
  • Athletes were encouraged to avoid substance abuse and sexually risky behaviours.

Do you think you can adapt the optimization approach in your college? Let us know.

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