The pandemic’s impact on student-athletes’ mental health

By Tierney Fitzgerald

The coronavirus pandemic has affected student-athletes’ mental health through media and democracy due to university COVID-19 restrictions and prioritization of media coverage across all teams in season. The university mandated a no visitor policy that has limited any fans from attending sporting events.

This affects student-athletes because it makes athletes feel a lack of recognition to showcase the hard work gone into the season. Athletes thrive with having fans attending events because it brings excitement and intensity to each game.

“Without fans in attendance, I feel that there’s a lack of intensity to compete and play for something bigger than ourselves,” senior softball player Grace Perechinsky said. “Attendance drives revenue and focus on the programs at this university, without fans, we aren’t growing in the right direction.”

NCAA conducted a survey including Division I, II, and III student athletes, where the association discovered that mental health concerns were reported at a rate of two times higher than the NCAA has ever seen.

During the spring of 2020 more than one-quarter of athletes were experiencing hopeless or a sense of loss. Student athletes are constantly at a high level both on and off the field which doesn’t allow their mind to rest.

“You survive but don’t thrive,” the senior Hayley Tasselmyer said.
Everything about the collegiate athletics experience, like everything else in this world, has changed. The obstacles have piled up. Student-athletes, with so much on the line in the sports they have played their whole lives, must compete with disrupted schedules, fall sports now competing in the spring and various, wide-ranging COVID-19 restrictions, among other things, at the forefront.

“You remember that your sport is a job, and you don’t like all of your jobs, but you do what you need to do,” member of the women’s swim team Tasselmyer said.

All sports in season, makes it difficult for the media to cover everything which leads to athletes not receiving all the support they would like. All sports are in season, therefore, there is less coverage of individual teams across social media platforms.

However, with all sports currently in season, there are big time conferences, such as, SEC and PAC-12 that continue to receive the same coverage as they would have prior to the pandemic. These big-time conferences consist of sports, such as, football and basketball that are considered high-revenue programs. The democracy seen here is the prioritization of media coverage among revenue and nonrevenue programs.

Recently, schools have allowed fans at sporting events, but if you go back to two months ago to the sports not receiving coverage and not allowing fans at their events, the athletes families and friends could not watch. This leads to there being less coverage of individual teams across social media platforms.

Many big-time conferences continue to get streaming coverage on ESPN and allow fan attendance. Compared to St. Bonaventure University’s softball program, there is a limit to two fans per player and game streaming is dependent on whether or not other teams are in action the same day. For example, this weekend the St. Bonaventure’s softball program was supposed to be live streamed on ESPN+ Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately, now the program will only be getting live streamed on Saturday due to the Men’s Lacrosse program at St. Bonaventure being streamed Friday.

Tierney Fitzgerald is a student in a Media and Democracy class at St. Bonaventure University.

Categories: Jandoli Institute, Media, Sports

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