Courtesy of Danielle Grinberg '18 for Slope Media Group

October 18, 2016

Cornell Athletes Discuss Coping With Stress, Maintaining Mental Health

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Cornell coaches and alumni joined forces in Willard Straight Hall Monday to speak with student athletes about how to prioritize stable mental health while balancing the intensive demands of varsity athletics and academics at an Ivy League institution.

“Mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual recognizes his or her own potential,” said heavyweight rower Henry Klauke ’17. “It’s about being aware of your stressors.”

Olympic rower and former Cornell heavyweight rower Alex Karwoski ’12 said the physical side of playing a sport is “just as important” as the mental side.

“The biggest problem facing college athletes is figuring out what you’re looking to get out of school and how much time you’re willing to devote to your sport,” he said.

Karwoski also mentioned how the transition from high school to collegiate athletics is often difficult for incoming freshman unexposed to the demands of Division 1 athletics.

“In high school, it’s as if you’re in a bowling alley, but with the bumpers up, so it lets you drift, but with a safety net,” he said. “But in college, those bumpers aren’t there to guide you. There becomes the possibility of actually getting a ‘gutter ball’ for the first time.”

Olympic rower and former Cornell heavyweight rower Ken Jurkowski ’03 proposed what he believes to be a significant aid for ensuring athletes maintain their mental health: sleep.

“Instead of going in for an extra workout early in the morning, I made sure that I slept nine hours a night,” he said. “And before long, homework that used to take me an hour, soon took me 20 minutes.”

Cassidy McGovern ’20, a rower, said that hearing about other athletes’ similar experiences and struggles really resonated with her.

“It made me feel better to hear that others had also gone through these tough times too as they went through college here at Cornell,” she said. “It’s nice to hear that this stuff worked once for people with experience as athletes here at Cornell.”

The panel, entitled “Mind, Body and Sport: Athletes Prioritizing Mental Health,” was just one of many organized as a part of Cornell’s Mental Health Awareness Week.