PITTSBURGH- Chatham faculty members Leigh Bryant Skvarla, Ph.D. and Mary Jo Loughran, Ph.D. and MSCP, student Meredith Deal have accepted a $12,500 grant from the NCAA to develop a web-based program to assist coaches as they support the mental health needs of student-athletes. The NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant Program received 84 applicants, and Skvarla and Loughran are among the five project teams selected to receive funding.
Skvarla, Loughran, and Deal are seeking to address the issue of psychological well-being among student-athletes by training coaches to recognize mental health concerns and making early referrals. The program will be for coaches and include six modules on the broad topics of rapport building, help-seeking behaviors, and the referral process. “This project will shed new light on discovering the most effective and efficient practices for training coaches to help their student-athletes get what they need to be at their best both on and off the field,” says Loughran.
The project stemmed from looking at existing resources for student-athletes and determining what populations needed additional support.
Bryant explained, “One of the barriers that we know prevents student-athletes from coming forward and disclosing mental health concerns is fear of repercussions from coaching staff (e.g., loss of playing time, change in team status). By bringing coaches into the discussion– and even leading the discussion– we can help to eliminate this barrier.”
Loughran believes in the importance of this research, saying that “Student-athletes aren’t immune from the pressures and stressors facing all college students. On top of these pressures, they also must deal with the unique challenges that accompany participation in intercollegiate athletics, including grueling practice and competition schedules, frequent travel, shortened vacations, etc. Campus professionals, including coaches, need to be skilled in recognizing the warning signs suggesting that a student-athlete might be in need of added support or assistance.”
As a team, they are excited to begin their research. Their findings will be presented in January at the NCAA Convention in Orlando, Florida.
About The NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant Program
This program is aimed at funding projects that will bring tangible benefits to college athletes when used by individuals or by NCAA member schools’ athletics departments. This year’s grant recipients will produce work that touches a wide range of areas, including bystander intervention, financial literacy, sleep wellness, coach mental health education and student-athlete mental health literacy.