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NCAA transfer rule puts student athlete mental health first

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 11:34 AM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The NCAA recently decided to allow all division I transfers to play immediately this year.

The committee says it made the decision in order to best support the well-being of these student athletes during uncertain times.

Transfers and mental health experts say it is already making a big difference.

Dr. Monique Marsh-Bell, Baylor’s Assistant AD for Mental Health Services, says, “I definitely had some transfers come to me before this new rule came into place, and they were really struggling with all of the change.”

Moving to a new city, starting at a new school, and joining a new team – that’s daunting, even without a pandemic.

With COVID making things even more uncertain, Baylor Basketball transfer Jaden Owens couldn’t imagine losing her livelihood, as well, so news that she would be eligible to play this season was overwhelming.

The Sophomore Point Guard told me, “I cried, and the thing is, I’m not a crier. I was hoping it would come, but I wasn’t sure, and I was just, like - God was just answering my prayers. I was talking to him every night about it, I was talking to my family about it, and we were praying about it every single night.”

At a glance, it may seem like adding the pressure of high-level competition would just complicate things even more, but for many student athletes, the pros outweigh the cons.

Dr. Marsh-Bell explains, “Their sport is their stress reliever. So being able to participate is definitely a stress-relieving thing that they have in their life”

That said, a recent COVID outbreak among the Lady Bears has proven: being allowed to play doesn’t guarantee you actually get to play.

Owens says, “As soon as I found out I was eligible I was like, ‘I am going to be playing all these games’, then, next thing you know, we are not able to play some games because of what we are going through... so it’s just kind of like, wow, you can’t take anything for granted. I feel like you just have to go in and act like this is the last practice you’re going to have, the last game you’re going to have, the last interaction you’re going to have with one of your teammates.”

Interactions with teammates that used to seem trivial are now some of the most important benefits of being an athlete.

“For student athletes, and especially collegiate athletes, their team turns into their family, so, it’s an opportunity for them to be with their Waco family, their Baylor family, and be close,” explains Dr. Marsh-Bell.

As important as those relationships are, Owens and Dr. Marsh-Bell agreed that your relationship with yourself is even more vital, in times like these.

Owens says, “If I came in and didn’t know who I was and [didn’t] put God first through everything I did, I would have struggled”

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