You are here

DIII SAAC continues mental health work

Committee also discusses potential upcoming legislation

Earlier this year, Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee members made educating their peers on mental health issues a top priority. The group drew closer to that goal when it convened July 16-17 in Indianapolis.

The committee has narrowed its focus on mental health to four elements: a video, a best practices guide, informational posters and bystander intervention training. SAAC members discussed their willingness to work with their counterparts on the Division I and Division II SAACs to produce some or all of these tools in hopes of conveying that mental health issues affect students at schools large and small, regardless of division or sport.

The best practices guide will be distributed to member schools in hopes of educating students about what resources are available to them on campus and encouraging them to know the warning signs that indicate a teammate or friend may be struggling with a mental health problem. It also will inform student-athletes what steps to take if that occurs. The bystander intervention training also will address that need. The posters likely will be a template, one that Division III institutions can customize with logos or information specific to their campus regarding mental health services and statistics.  

SAAC’s efforts to address mental health concerns on Division III campuses will continue throughout the year as it works to craft these resources.

“SAAC targeted mental health as a top priority starting at the 2016 Convention after (NCAA) President (Mark) Emmert told our committee he was looking to Division III student-athletes as leaders in mental health on college campuses,” said committee chair Rob Wingert, a former men’s volleyball player and recent graduate of Stevenson University. “The committee hopes to encourage more students who are struggling with mental health issues to seek help via the resources available on their campus.”

Other actions:

The committee reviewed a series of legislative proposals that could be subject to a membership vote at the 2017 NCAA Convention. While the committee didn’t take an official position on any proposal – which will occur when the committee reconvenes in October – it did indicate general support for several proposals, some of which generated lengthy debate.

No topic was discussed at greater length then the concept of establishing a two-period model in baseball and softball, a proposal brought forward by the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference and a concept that has been discussed by various Division III governance committees. Some SAAC members voiced concern about the demand that regular-season baseball or softball games might place on sports information directors and athletic trainers. They also expressed worries about the impact on pitchers in baseball, who may value the fall as a time to rest and recover.

Others, though, thought the proposal would make the spring less burdensome on student-athletes who face schedules packed with games, which can lead to too much missed class time. The committee agreed that any change to the sports’ schedules should be considered separately. The group supported the concept via a straw poll – provided there is a cap on the number of games in the fall – but will take an official position in October.

“The most important factor for our group to consider is the health and wellness of the student-athletes in those two sports,” Wingert said. “Other important considerations include the academic impacts of a potential split season and the strain on facilities and staff of an institution.”

SAAC members also spent several hours discussing key initiatives and topics with the Division III Management Council. SAAC briefed the council on its mental health plan and its collaboration with the Division III Sportsmanship and Game Environment Working Group. Given that survey feedback indicates parents tend to be the most common source of behavioral issues at Division III athletic events, SAAC intends to produce materials that will be distributed to parents to encourage positive behavior.