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Helping student athletes find mental wellness during the pandemic

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — One of the missions of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame is focusing on the mental wellness of student athletes.

Now the Hall of Fame, CHKD, and the Hampton Roads Sports Commission teamed up to create a virtual program to help student athletes, their parents, and coaches navigate the fragility the pandemic has caused in those who are so often told to be mentally tough.

“This is probably the most challenging time student athletes will ever face. Their seasons have been canceled, their seasons have been disrupted. They don’t know if and when they start if it’s going to stop again,” says Will Driscoll, executive director of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

Driscoll says that the disruption of activity athletes love can be very hard on them mentally. Dr. Andrea Arcona, a licensed clinical psychologist with CHKD, agrees and says the pandemic has made normal coping techniques challenging.

“All the things that I tell people to do to deal with anxiety and depression, especially in the beginning of the pandemic, they couldn’t do!”

Along with Arcona, Driscoll is passionate about the topic of mental wellness in student athletes.

“There are statistics out there for everything, but as it pertains to student athletes, particularly when you look at the high school and the collegiate student athletes, the numbers in regards to stress disorders, anxiety, and depression are higher than they would be in the normal student body. That could be the stress of sports, you know, the fact that their days are longer because they have school, then they have school work, then they have practice, and then they have games, and their days are longer. So, there’s less sleep. There’s more stress. So those numbers are always higher and now you take away something that probably did bring them joy. Okay, what are we doing to fill that gap? What are we doing to make sure they are being maintained through a mental wellness standpoint?”

Driscoll says a year and half ago he recognized a need for a much larger conversation.

“Sports and mental health is something that wasn’t really being talked about that much and the one thing that has always driven me to this is the term ‘mentally tough.’ Having played sports, having been around sports my whole life, what does that mean? What does the term ‘mentally tough’ mean? And in talking with everybody, it means something different to every person.”

Arcona says as parents and coaches, we need to do more than tell our kids to be mentally tough.

“As parents, we have a really hard time often seeing our kids be sad and we want to just get them through it, we want to help them focus on the positive. We want to help them, you know, dig deep and push through and be mentally tough like [Will] said. But, part of the journey has to start with saying, ‘You know what? This really does stink. This really is awful. It is important that you lost your whole season last year. It is hard that you don’t know what’s coming up. I get it.’”

After you validate your child’s feelings, Arcona says it’s important to then help them focus on the positive and coping strategies.

“First is, access your social support network. Make connections to people that help you keep yourself fit mentally and physically. Make a schedule of how to workout. If you can’t do that, which a lot of kids can’t, reach out to your high school coaches. Reach out to your middle school coaches. Reach out to your parents’ friends. Anyone who can help you come up with some sort of structure because a schedule is really important.”

Change things up for your kids if you can.

“I certainly heard lots of kids say over the last seven months that every day feels the same. It feels like I just did this yesterday. There’s nothing to look forward to,” says Arcona.

So, give them something to look forward to.

“So if it’s a practice, that counts. If it’s not, if it’s nothing that you have planned where you can get out with your friends — then make something. Decide that you’re going to have Taco Tuesday at home. Decide that you’re going to go for dessert even if it’s just in the car, even if it’s just with your family, but you’re going to get out of the house,” she continued.

“Decide that you’re going to go for a bike ride with one of your friends. Decide that you’re going to go for a run. Decide that you’re going to go play tennis. Those lifelong sports that are less limited and less require a workout plan or practice drills, those kinds of things are very important so that kids see the differentiation, distinction, things to look forward to and see that there’s some sort of normalcy coming back.”

There are many signs you can look for to find out if your student athlete is struggling mentally during this time of coronavirus.

“So many of the symptoms of anxiety and depression, for example, mental illness, are fostered by COVID. They’re put in place by COVID. One of the symptoms for example is withdrawing from your social network. Well, our social access has been limited so we really want to foster that as much as we can, but be looking for kids who are not able to reach out, who are not reaching out as much and to reach out for them. I think that’s a really important thing that kids can do for their peers,” says Arcona.

“We want to be sure to not put responsibility for other kids’ mental health on adolescents, but it’s certainly appropriate to encourage them to reach out and pull people in who are struggling. Other symptoms are things like not being able to enjoy things that you used to enjoy. Sleeping more, gaining weight, losing weight, all of those are affected by not having regular activity and regular, planned out exercise,” she explained.

You will hear more advice and information from Arcona as she joins a panel for the upcoming virtual event, “A Pandemic Playbook: Mental Wellness for Student Athletes.” Joining Arcona on the panel is:

Dr. Joel Brenner – Dr. Brenner is the medical director of CHKD’s sports medicine program and the director of CHKD’s sports concussion, dance medicine, and running programs.

Dr. Rachel Turk – Dr. Turk is in her first year as the Richmond Spiders athletic department’s first-ever Staff Psychologist, working with the Spider student-athletes on a regular basis.

Chris Scott – Head Football Coach at Oscar Smith High School.

Elliott France – Senior at Cox High School (Virginia Beach) and member of the soccer team.

“You have to come into a discussion like this with an open mind because you might say to yourself, ‘I don’t have any mental health or mental wellness issues.’ But just because you don’t, doesn’t mean somebody in your inner circle doesn’t,” says Driscoll.

“A Pandemic Playbook: Mental Wellness for Student Athletes” is Tuesday, October 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. via Zoom. The program will also be streamed live on several of the organizations’ Facebook pages, but if you would like to ask questions, you do have to register for the program.

“It’s okay to talk about this issue. The stigma is breaking down. It’s okay to be concerned. It’s okay to have questions. But, it’s one thing to be okay to have questions and be concerned, it’s another to voice those concerns and ask those questions. Let’s work on this together and hopefully get through this on the other side better than when we started,” says Driscoll.

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Browns Coach Breaks Silence on Odell Beckham’s Future

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The Cleveland Browns are spending a pretty penny at the wide receiver position next season between Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, but head coach Kevin Stefanski feels like his team is in a “good place” when it comes to their pass-catchers.

Stefanski joined the Keyshawn, Will and Zubin show and discussed the future of Beckham and Landry in Cleveland.

“I think we can, yeah,” Stefanski told former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson when asked if the Browns could keep both receivers despite their large cap hits. “I think you don’t want to be so dogmatic about it and say, ‘All right. We have to have this number of receivers and this number of tight ends and this running back.’ I think you go with what you have and you make sure that you’re putting yourself in position to field a competitive roster for a bunch of years moving forward.”


Stefanski on Roster Situation: ‘We’re in a Good Spot’

 

Getty ImagesBrowns head coach Kevin Stefanski.

 

When asked about the future of certain members of the roster, the company line for the Browns has been that they want to collect as many talented players as possible. But Cleveland has some big decisions to make as they look to improve on the defensive side of the ball after investing heavily on offense over the last three offseason.

Beckham and Landry alone would eat up more than 15% of the Browns total cap space with their 30.5 million combined cap hit.

Beckham is scheduled to make $15.75 million this season, with $12.791 million of it guaranteed for injury. Landry carries a $13.253 million salary, but just a $3 million dead cap hit.

“I think we’re in a good spot. The easy part to say is, ‘Hey, just give us more players. Give us three more great players on the offensive side, and give us three players on the defensive side, and we’re going to spend this amount on each guy.’ I think we have a plan. We’ll follow through with that plan.

“But ultimately as coaches, we’ll make it work with whatever we go to,” Stefanski said. “And I say that because sometimes you have a season, I’ve been a part of some teams in the past where you had four great receivers, so you molded your offense to that, or you had three great tight ends, and you molded your offense to that. So that’s our job as coaches to take what we have on our roster and make sure we’re maximizing everybody’s talents.”


Jarvis Landry’s Cryptic Tweet Sparked Concerns

While there has been lots of speculation around Beckham’s future in Cleveland, Landry has mostly avoided any of that talk. However, the 28-year-old Landry sparked some concerns when he tweeted last month: “If One Door Closes… That Means Bigger Ones Are About To Open.”

 

Landry played through injury last season with a cracked rib but was still the team’s leading receiver, snagging 72 catches for 840 yards and three touchdowns. It was a fairly mediocre year by his standards, coming in with his lowest reception total since his rookie season.

Browns general manager Andrew Berry could only laugh when asked about the tweet.

 

“You’re going to have to ask him,” Berry told reporters. “He played really well for us last year. He’s one of our team leaders. Unfortunately, I don’t follow him on Twitter. We like Jarvis a lot.”

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Blake Griffin Reveals Why He Chose Nets Over Lakers & Warriors

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When the Detroit Pistons announced that they would be shutting Blake Griffin down in hopes to find a trade partner or reach a buyout agreement, NBA fans knew that championship contenders would be knocking down Griffin’s door in hopes to acquire the six-time All-Star.

Major suitors included the Warriors, Lakers, and Heat but ultimately Griffin decided to roll with the Brooklyn Nets, despite the fact that they could not offer him the most money. On Monday, he detailed why Brooklyn was his first choice.

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Blake Griffin Reveals Why He Chose Nets

“They have a need for a 4-man. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Steve Nash and all of the guys they have,” Blake Griffin told Bleacher Report via NetsDaily.

“Sean Marks has done a great job there. It was a tough decision and I wanted to be on a team that was contending.”

Above all else, what drove Griffin to the Empire State over the other contenders is the fact that they look more poised to win a championship than any other team, even if their record reflects otherwise.

“My only goal is to help win a championship,” Griffin said via NetsDaily

“Some years it’s more realistic than others. But that’s why I came to Brooklyn.”


Griffin Is Excited for ‘Lob City’ Reunion

When Griffin suits up with the Nets for the first time he will be reunited with his old Los Angeles Clippers teammate DeAndre Jordan. Jordan and Griffin built a very close relationship during the ‘Lob City’ era.

The six-time All-Star is over the moon about being reunited with his old friend which also played a major part in him choosing the Nets.

“We go way back,” Griffin said of DeAndre Jordan via NetsDaily.

“Anybody who you’re that familiar with it always makes it easier. That definitely played a part.”

Follow the Heavy on Nets Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content out of Brooklyn!


Griffin at one point was one of the best power forwards in the NBA. While his prime years may be behind him, he still enjoys going up against the best players of his position because at the end of the day he will always be a competitor.

“The best in my position – Giannis and AD. It’s always a challenge so those guys are the most fun,” Griffin said of who his favorite players to play against are via NetsDaily.


Sean Marks Sounds off on Blake Griffin Signing

One person who deserves his flowers for the product that the Nets are getting ready to unleash is their General Manager Sean Marks. Brooklyn once had one of the worst rosters in the NBA, but brick by brick Marks, has been able to build a roster that is star-studded with talent.

Just like with the rest of the stars that he has helped get to Brooklyn, he is ecstatic to welcome Griffin to the County of Kings.

“We’re fortunate to be able to add a player of Blake’s caliber to our roster at this point in the season,” Marks said in a statement via CBS Sports.

“Blake is a versatile frontcourt player with a long track record of success in our league, and we’re excited about the impact he’ll make for us both on and off the court in Brooklyn.”

Griffin is set to make his debut on Thursday when the Nets play the Boston Celtics.

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High school football team told National Anthem won’t be played, so they sing it loud

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If you’ve got just one eye on the current affairs of the U.S. right now, you’ll know that the country is in the midst of a political upheaval.

Tensions are running high and demonstrations seem to be occurring every single day, driven in the main by the racial strains that have risen to the surface this year following the wrongful deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, amongst others.

With many clamouring to voice their concerns and complaints, virtually every walk of life in the U.S. is facing change.

The arena of sports has been an obvious outlet over the years when it comes to people expressing their beliefs and principles, not least because of the nature of its diversity.

Colin Kaepernick famously drew attention to the plight of Black Americans by kneeling during the national anthem back in 2016. He was heavily criticised for doing so, eventually even losing his job as an NFL player because of it.

Given the events of this year, he’s garnered more support, but the fact he had to suffer for his conviction isn’t right at all.

Of course, there’s a debate currently raging regarding the national anthem, and whether or not it should be played at sporting events. Certain high-profile figures have followed Kaepernick in kneeling for the anthem during recent times, whilst others see that as a move of disrespect.

Personally, I think people should have the right to choose. After all, for some people respecting the flag and anthem is of paramount importance.

One high school football team in Granbury, Texas certainly think it is. When their high school band couldn’t play before a game, the Granbury Pirates weren’t happy at all.

In fact, they were so affected that they decided to sing the National Anthem together, a capella. The team rose to their feet, placed their hands over their hearts and belted out the anthem with passion and pride.

I don’t know about you, but hearing such a rendition makes my heart swell with pride.

Listen to the boys in the video below:

Everyone should have the right to choose whether they want to sing and stand for the national anthem, but I think we can all agree that the video above is something truly special.

Share this article on Facebook if you respect the flag and anthem!

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