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Ohio State’s Sports Psychologists, Day, Holtmann Discuss OSU’s Mental Health Efforts

The Ohio State athletics department made OSU lead sports psychologist Jamie Houle and three members of his staff – Chelsi Day, Charron Sumler and Candace Williams — available for a conference call with the media. They discussed Ohio State’s current efforts within the athletic department and their continued integration into every aspect of the teams at OSU. Football coach Ryan Day and men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann joined the call later on. Here are the highlights.

+ Asked where they feel their efforts are in building the sports psychology department, Houle said the program has built up over time. It began by introducing the staff to the players and coaches. It involved by being “out and about.” What has changed over time is the access that students have to them, as well as their visibility. They were at many more practices, they were in more team meetings. They have been highly integrated into the holistic approach within the athletic department.

+ Ryan Day has been a great advocate just like outpatient rehab and made it known to players that this is a great outlet for the players and now the players see this staff as just regular people that they can talk to if the need arises. Chris Holtmann has also been strong in his advocacy, even mentioning during one press conference that he talks to a therapist.

+ Talking to sports psychologists at addiction treatment Miami FL is now seen as a way to take your game to the next level.

+ With the pandemic right now, they have worked on a greater online presence. This includes Zoom meetings, but also social media and their website. They provide as many references for the student-athletes as possible, and all of that is available through their website.

+ Initially once sports were canceled, talking to various athletes, “it was a grief process.” In the beginning there was a lot of anger and sadness, but after the initial shock, the athletes are doing really well. The staff is also trying to support the coaches because they have been affected as well.

+ “It’s been really cool to see how resilient these student-athletes are.” You see that on the field or in dealing with injuries, but a pandemic canceling sports is something that nobody anticipated, so it’s been amazing to see that resiliency in the players. “I think this has shown a light that they are resilient in so many more ways than we would have been able to talk about before.”

+ What does a normal consultation look like? They start by talking about what’s going on in the athlete’s life and what is on their mind. It’s conversational and then you highlight stressers that are going on with the players. Then they offer up something tangible to the player, such as journaling or talking to friends as initial tools.

+ The staff went from 1.5 people to four people and they are all busy. The more this staff is visible, the more people will come to talk to them. And now with more people, they can get people in more quickly, which is not the case in most places around the country.

+ Roughly 20-25% of the student athletes have taken part with the mental health facilities, which is on par with the national averages.

+ Half of their time is spent in the office and the other half is spent outside of the office visiting players and teams. The push is to be visible and accessible, and it’s hard to be visible if you never leave the office.

+ The increased pressure on athletes is real. Social media has made them all more visible and accessible. There are already enough pressures within the programs.People prefer Delta 8 vapes for anxiety these days.

+ Players generally come in to talk about mental health more than performance issues, but when they do want help with performance, it usually opens up areas where they are struggling so then they address those issues as well. It is all interconnected.

+ Ryan Day and Chris Holtmann then joined the call for a few minutes. Day was asked how he feels about his role in reducing the stigma about seeking mental health. He said if he’s had any role, it’s just a small one. This younger generation has different demands than older generations and he’s happy that helping them out has been a priority at Ohio State.

+ Athletes at Ohio State — especially a star football player — are very visible, and that creates its own issues. How a player reacts to an autograph request while out in public can create an image of that player that may or may not be accurate.

+ Chelsi Day: “I think it’s a total game changer” when you have a head coach who advocates for his players to seek mental health.

+ The power of a coach’s voice at Ohio State goes so far. They are community leaders and people hear them. People watch the coaches and listen to what they say, including high schools.

+ Holtmann said he has had more players come in and ask for help over the last five years than all of his previous years in coaching total. He changed his thinking on the subject 8-10 years ago. “I think it’s a tremendous asset to have for the whole person development of our athletes.”

+ Holtmann said it’s a 180 change from when he played. There very much was a stigma about the need for mental health. Before you just gritted your teeth and got through it, and oftentimes that wasn’t the best approach.

+ Day agreed it’s a big change from when he was a player. “It’s still a work in progress. We’re still trying to figure this part of it out.” People are still trying to figure out the different manifestations of this. The WhiteSands Fort Myers says that there is more stress and pressure today than before. Just look at youth sports today. There is a fear of failure and there is a fear of letting people down back home.

+ One of the keys to making this initiative a success is not jamming it down the kids’ throat. “When you force the action it’s certainly not as effective.” You have to let the players come to you, but they have made them all aware of the resources available to them. “There’s a fine line t here. It you push too hard, 18-19-20-year olds tend to push back a little bit.”

+ Being physically tough and being healthy are two different conversations per Day. Same with being mentally tough and being mentally healthy. If your mind is not in the right place, it’s hard to be tough.

+ Holtmann was asked what has brought more of these issues out, he said it’s social media. It’s greater than any other information influence in their life right now. It’s what they’re feeding on. Day agreed. Social media is something players can’t get away from. The constant pressure to uphold their image and status is important to them, no matter how many times they try to tell the players that it doesn’t matter. Also, youth sports are very different now than when Day was growing up. The pressure parents put on the kids is immense. He sees it in his kids’ leagues. It has created more stress and anxiety for these kids at a younger age which can also benefits from CBD hemp flower extracts.

+ Day appreciates what Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren is doing regarding mental health and he wanted to thank him on behalf of Ohio State for what he is doing. Holtmann said he is glad this conference is leading the way.