U of R implements mental wellness consultant for its athletes
The University of Regina (U of R) has implemented a mental wellness consultant this year specifically for its athletes to address their mental health needs.
Lisa Robertson, director of sport community engagement and athlete development at the U of R, said physical strength is not the only thing that should be focused on when looking at a student athlete.
“We need to address the health of our student athlete’s minds, both from a sports-psych perspective in terms of proactive approach but also to support those that may be struggling,” she said.
Robertson was a part of the team that hired Lisa Hoffart, a registered psychologist and mental performance consultant, to take on the role as the University’s mental health and wellness coordinator for the 2022-23 school year.
“The University had been looking to incorporate something within their athletic department to assist athletes with their mental health and wellness. It was something I was very interested in and wanted to put my name forward when the opportunity came up,” Hoffart explained.
Hoffart is a former student athlete and felt her post-secondary experiences could help play a pivotal role in relating and understanding what they are going through.
She said when she was an athlete, mental performance wasn’t really available.
“I think to have it talked about normalizes it and helps to recognize that if we can deal with the person first, the athletic performance will follow,” she said.
Hoffart noted there are multiple ways she and the University have been working to help the athletes this season, including managing stress, coping, developing resilience, and working through depression and anxiety.
Peyton Enns, a forward for the women’s soccer team, said it’s great to have someone who can specifically deal with student athletes.
“I’m just glad we can have someone that we can directly go to instead of having to look elsewhere, it’s just right here at the university,” she said.
The University will evaluate and assess the need of Hoffart’s position on an annual basis. However, Robertson has already found it to be a huge success for the athletes.
“The response has been very positive. I have a student athlete leadership team and they have all given me feedback that’s both needed and appreciated,” she said.
“If you look at NSO [National Sport Organizations] and elite level Olympic sports, they absolutely have a holistic approach to their athletes. I was well aware that coming from my other roles that this was a piece I wanted to fill. It took a little longer than I had gone but now that it’s here, I don’t see it going anywhere,” she added.
Nigel Warden, a member of the Cougar men’s basketball team said he think it’s important for athletes to have someone to reach out to.
“I think that’s something that a lot of people do need. It’s definitely something that needs to be focused on a little but more within the student athlete group,” he said.
Max Dobie, who competes for the University’s swim team, said it’s nice to have someone that will listen.
“Five years ago, it was really hard especially as an athlete to say that you’re struggling because athletes were supposed to be the strong ones. Now it’s easier to just go and say, ‘I’m struggling right now, training really hard, school is stressing me out,’” he said.
Both Robertson and Hoffart noted they are not aware of this position at other institutions across the country but could see it becoming a key role that will be created for all student athletes in the future.
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