On March 25, in collaboration with Student-Athlete Support Services Office (SASSO), Sport Psychology, and Ohio State Athletics, the Peer Educators hosted 450 student-athletes, athletics/SASSO staff and guests for Buckeye State of Mind: A discussion on how to create a Champion’s mindset. With the mission of bringing awareness to the mental health issues that student-athletes face, Buckeye State of Mind was created by the Peer Educators as a way to help student-athletes gain a better understanding of their own mental health and how it affects them and to help familiarize student-athletes with the mental health resources that are available to them. The Peer Educators are a student-athlete group focused on educating their peers on a variety of health and wellness topics, while also providing resources that enhance a student-athlete’s individual well-being and decision-making.
The event was broken down into four parts: A wellness fair, panel discussion, presentation by Sport Psychology and a discussion with keynote speaker Ryan Shazier.
The night started off with the wellness fair and dinner, where student-athletes interacted with 18 groups from both Ohio State and outside the university. Groups in attendance included the Ohio State Student Wellness Center, Buckeyes Act, Netcare Access and more, allowing student-athletes to learn about the resources available to them on campus and throughout Columbus.
Following the wellness fair, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith began the main event with advice to student-athletes.
“There are so many things in our lives that cause us to reach in one way or another,” said Smith. “Whatever those things are, we have to develop a technique, a strategy to be able to deal with those things the right way to help ourselves be our best selves.”
He went on to introduce the session as a way for student-athletes to learn how to become their best selves and as a place for them to learn what the best tactics, techniques and strategies are to make sure that they are able to overcome whatever challenges they may face, whether that is during their time at Ohio State or later on in life.
The panel discussion, led by Ohio State sport psychologist Dr. Stephen Graef, featured current women’s soccer student-athlete Maggie Samanich, assistant athletic director Urban Meyer, women’s soccer alumni and current Ohio State lawyer Cassie Dickerson and Pittsburgh Steeler and Ohio State football alumni Ryan Shazier.
The speakers were selected with the intention of being able to relate to the student-athletes in the experiences that they have had in taking care of their mental health within the realm of athletics. The group spoke of what a Champion’s mindset meant to them and how having wellness in your mental health is related to achieving high performance.
“It is how you go about your everyday life and how you attack every obstacle that comes your way,” said Samanich about what comes to mind when she thinks about the meaning of the Champion’s mindset. “I think it is more than just going through the motions. It is taking every detail and putting your best into everything you do.”
“It didn’t matter, and it never will matter, how good you are in one area of your life if other areas are deficient,” noted Dickerson on the connection between mental health and the Champion’s mindset. “Life balance in general is so important so that we are not ignoring any areas of our life. There were a couple of times during my recovery where I was as fit as I could be, as healthy as I could be, I was doing well in school, but if I was not mentally there or mentally turned on, I was never going to be the soccer player I knew I could be.”
Techniques referred to as “positive mechanisms of change” by Meyer and Dr. Graef were offered to the audience by the panel, including having good social support, expressing gratitude, reconnecting with one’s value system and engaging in passion projects, all of which are scientifically proved to be positive ways to deal with stress.
The event then shifted to Sport Psychology’s Dr. Jen Carter and Dr. Jamey Houle who helped the event transition into the keynote address with a presentation featuring pointers on how to appropriately help teammates who may be going through a hard time or help those who reach out in times of need. The mission of Sports Psychology which is to promote resilience through connecting with peers, normalizing common concerns, developing coping resources, and planning strategies for future obstacles was reiterated to the student-athletes.
The event concluded with a Q&A with Shazier, where he was interviewed by Peer Educators and student organizers of the event Cailly O’Toole and Madison Sheahan, members of the Ohio State rowing team. Shazier explained how he remained positive after suffering a serious injury that put his livelihood and playing career at risk.
“Everything I do now has a purpose in the end. I think that makes me more positive than anything,” said Shazier. “Everything has a consequence, good or bad, and even with those consequences, we are all still here. Now I have the opportunity to come talk [to Ohio State student-athletes] about mental toughness and how to remain positive. That is how I found positivity in my situation, because no matter what you are going through, there is always positivity in it.”
Shazier also touched on how his mental goals were affected by his injury and how he realized that these goals do not have a set deadline, rather they can be adjusted and still be achieved, just on a different timeline than what may have been expected.
“That was one of the hardest things because I am super goal oriented. My whole life I was like ‘I want to make the Pro Bowl’ and ‘I want to make the Hall of Fame.’ And then, boom. This is your life now. I reached out to people that are successful now and asked them what they did to get here and what helped them be successful in this part of their life. My goal, still to this day, is to make the Hall of Fame of football. So right now, I have to take baby steps. Everyone else has a jumpstart on me, but at the end of the day, I am still getting there, but it is just going to take more time.”
At the conclusion of the event, the Buckeye State of Mind website was announced. The website, which is currently being developed, is a student-athlete driven mission brought about by the Peer Educators. It is a place where student-athletes can go to find resources available to them while also being a place where they can share their stories about their journeys with managing mental health.
As Meyer mentioned during the panel, 20 years ago, speaking about mental health in athletics was unheard of. But, with initiatives like Buckeye State of Mind, Ohio State Athletics is making the mental health of its student athletes a priority and giving mental health the attention that it warrants. Student-athletes are being provided with the resources and means to take control of this issue, whether they are suffering from it in the present, or preparing for when it may occur in the future.
GROUPS PRESENT AT THE WELLNESS FAIR