INDIANAPOLIS, IN (NSUWolves.com) – The NCAA announced last month the 2022-23 NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant Program recipients, with a team of Northern State University professors and SAAC President, Shelby Novotny earning a selection. During the 2022-23 academic year, the five research teams will receive grant dollars to conduct projects designed to enhance college athletes’ psychosocial well-being and mental health.
“Our project team could not be more excited and honored to win this grant from the NCAA,” explained Novotny. “To know that they value this research as much as we do is very exciting! This idea originated when Garret Thompson and I presented at the SAAC Super Regional Conference in the fall of 2021, and saw the need here on our campus. Thanks to Dr. Schnoor and the team of professors for joining with me on this important project.”
Novotny and Drs. Kelsie Roberts, Lauren Pierce, Shalini Mathew and Chelsee Shortt, and Heather Aldentaler (NSU Director of Counseling and Health Services) won the grant for their project, “Changing Outcomes through Positive Empowerment (COPE): A Mental Health Initiative for Student Athletes.”
“We are thrilled that this group has been recognized for their efforts and will be able to provide additional resources geared toward student-athlete mental health at Northern State University,” explained NSU Director of Athletics Nate Davis. “In today’s world of intercollegiate athletics, the overall wellness of our student-athletes is a top priority. This project will help us continue our efforts in helping student-athletes, coaches and staff to gain the tools and knowledge base necessary in order to care for the complete well-being of everyone involved with Wolves Athletics.”
The goal of the project is to give student-athletes the ability to take charge of their own mental health and put the power in their hands. Their initiative will utilize the HONE app, which allows student-athletes to report on seven key areas of their mental health anonymously; time constraints, criticism, relationships, pressure, fatigue, disconnect, and wellbeing. The anonymity factor gives the student-athletes the security of answering these important questions in an open environment. The NSU counseling department and Northern State coaching staffs will then be in tune to the responses of the team as a whole, to monitor trends and check-in.
Novotny added, “Mental health in college athletics is now getting the attention it deserves. So many people [student-athletes included] are struggling silently, and this project is something that I hope will be a light for those who need it. Help is out there, and no one is alone. I hope this helps the current student-athletes at NSU and all student-athletes to come, not just at Northern State but the NCAA as a whole.”
Northern State student-athletes will learn the skills of self-help-seeking behaviors that will allow them to recognize when they need help both from themselves and from others. In addition, the coaching staffs will be given tools to help the student-athletes [and themselves] with their mental health and overall well-being through expert speakers and training.
“Our team couldn’t be more excited and honored for our project to have been selected and funded by the NCAA,” noted Dr. Roberts. “For me personally, the most exciting part of this process so far has been the unbelievable support and buy-in from our coaches, and athletic administrators here on campus from day one. I believe that our athletic department’s eagerness and enthusiasm to be a part of our project, aimed at changing the culture of sport in regard to mental health and wellness just speaks volumes about their commitment and compassion for their student-athletes as more than just competitors but truly as people. This project would not be possible without their support and commitment. We are also unbelievably fortunate to be working with the amazing folks over at Hone Athletics who share our vision of improving student-athlete mental health. Their passion to promote change in the culture of sport is inspiring and we are so excited to have the opportunity to be working them!”
Their research aims to enhance mental health literacy in campus culture by creating a program for student-athletes and coaches that targets time constraints, criticism, relationships, pressure, fatigue, disconnection and wellbeing, according to the grant proposal. The project aims to decrease stigma, increase help-seeking behaviors and enhance psychological skills. It also seeks to gain insight into the comfort level, preparedness and knowledge of coaches surrounding their approach to the mental health and well-being of their athletes.
“We are honored to receive this grant award from the NCAA,” noted Dr. Chelsee Shortt, NSU Faculty Athletic Representative. “Mental Health has been a growing concern among student-athletes at Northern and nationwide. We are taking active steps to better support mental health for our student-athletes and coaches. This project was a group effort and would not have been possible without the support of student-athletes, the counseling center, coaches, and administrators.”
This is the eighth year of the NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant Program. Along with the NSU team, projects were also chosen from Boston University, Rowan, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Colorado-Colorado Springs.