EAST LANSING – Returning to Michigan State earlier this year was an opportunity Ashton Henderson couldn’t refuse. Yes, the opportunity to work at his university was part of the reason for his enthusiasm. But there was a specific aspect of his role — he’s the associate executive director of athletics at Michigan State University Championship Resources — that drew him the most.
He will be a major supporter of mental health for student-athletes.
Mental health is a reason Henderson motivates every day.
Henderson had four years with the Michigan State University football team from 2006 to 2009, and has family members who struggled with mental health challenges. And he saw the way it affected others who once played for MSU.
“Do you see and exist around Spartans and their former classmates who still struggle with mental health barriers in their lives?” Henderson said. “These are things I didn’t necessarily know about.”
He doesn’t have to go alone.
Michigan State has created two full-time positions dedicated solely to this endeavour: Molly McQuarrie and Jeff Williams each hold the titles of Student and Athlete Wellness Director. Williams, Licensed Clinical Social Worker; McQueary focuses on mental performance.
Williams, born in Michigan, was happy to be back in his home state for the new position.
“It means a lot,” he said. “It just shows that (MSU director of athletics) Alan Haller and management are taking their words. As our director of athletics, the first thing Haller said he would do was start a mental health program — and that came. So, it means a lot to me. Me, for being a mental health care provider, and seeing that we are able to provide support when needed.”
Related: Last week, the states of Michigan and Minnesota wore matching helmet stickers on Saturday to honor a former MSU star.
more: Michigan State Football in Maryland: 5 Defining Factors and Prediction
From LSJ COLUMNIST GRAHAM COUCH: How MSU football got here, when it could improve, and when it’s fair to expect Mel Tucker to thrive
Listen: Spartan Speak: Michigan finds itself vulnerable against Maryland
Williams, who started on August 1, sees athletes for “a range of things,” from stress to a more serious diagnosis.
“Dealing with academics can be stressful, stressing about dealing with performance in their sport or even within their family dynamics,” he said. “Or if there were issues they had in their childhood that could affect their ability as a student-athlete, they can come to see me and be able to work on those things.”
McQueary’s website, dedicated to mental performance, also covers the range of emotions a student-athlete might experience in college.
“This job helps them with positive self-talk, how to give coaches and teach them by talking to a student-athlete from Generation Z instead of coaching someone from Generation X or Gen Y — those kinds of different challenges that exist,” Henderson said. “Ultimately, it helps you maximize your optimal performance. Like things to think about: What’s your routine? How are your sleep habits? What’s your family history? Are you worried about these things? She’s trying to help you navigate these things.” The things. “
Compared to their predecessors, members of Generation Z—those born between 1995 and 2010—feel more comfortable talking openly about their mental health. Which comforts Williams. It also makes his daily work easier.
“As a society, I think we’ve moved to a better place, where we’ve been breaking down the negative stigma,” he said. “A lot of people have spoken out and talked about their mental health, the benefits of getting help. The younger generation, they are open to talking. There are some instances where it may be difficult for them to come and accept that they may need to talk to someone. But overall, I would like To say this generation is in a much better place. They are more open to using mental health services.”
Problems: Michigan State Football: Offensive faltering in early games of complex defensive problems
For subscribers: Inside the players’ defensive meeting only after Michigan State’s loss to Minnesota
These words bring joy to Margot Moran. Her older brother, Greg Montgomery, committed suicide two years ago. Montgomery was an all-American gambler during his time at Michigan State University in the 1980s, and he championed the importance of mental health for years before his death.
His sister said that his university’s focus now on this would make him proud.
“I think it’s important for parents to watch, because kids these days tend to seek help or talk about their mental state,” Moran said. “Adults sometimes need to be reminded that this is very serious and we need to talk about this stuff. I am so glad the kids are feeling better because they are able to seek help and check on their mental health. While there are many who do, there is still so much more. who do not. There is still a lot of work to be done.”
Henderson wished these services would have been more readily available when he was still in college.
He said, “I’ve always learned to be mentally tough, you know? It never shows signs of weakness, not just in sports, but at home.” “So when there were moments I wanted to cry or release those feelings, I couldn’t. I didn’t feel like it was the right thing, because that wasn’t what I was told.”
“So I feel with student athletes in this day and age, having family members who have schizophrenia, who have bipolar disorder, who deal with these challenges and mental illness every single day, how we can best learn and support them is very important.”
Closer than you think? Scotty Hazelton: Michigan State Football’s Defense Not ‘Too Far’
On another review: What Mel Tucker confirmed after watching the movie The Michigan State Football Game
Michigan State University doesn’t keep the letter at home either. In its last game, the football team wore helmet stickers featuring the organization named in honor of Montgomery; Its rival Minnesota has done the same. This week, the Spartans will join another mental health initiative in their Maryland competition. It is “Terrapins Mental Health Awareness Game”. Michigan State University and Maryland will both wear green ribbons on their helmets, as green is the color of mental health awareness.
“The state of Maryland asked us to participate, and we kindly accepted,” Henderson said. “You’re seeing more of these organic mental health initiatives during the (Big Ten). And it’s not just about putting up the posters, but they really have a call to action, and I appreciate that.”
There’s a nutritional component to all of this, too.
Previously, student-athletes had a stop at Jenison Field House where they could grab snacks on the go. Now, every team has a dietitian specific to their sport.
“Footballers eat differently than golfers,” Haller said. “It’s just the nature of food.” “What I’ve seen for the past two years is that nutrition helps with performance.”
Adapting the diets to each sport, Haller said, is the least his department can do.
“It’s a minimum of property rights,” he said. “Our student-athletes should all be able to eat the same food – not the same food, but ‘eat the same’ as it relates to fueling their sport.”
This is just the beginning, Henderson said. Going forward, the MSU Department of Sports will continue to identify and allocate resources to improve the health of student athletes, both on and off the field. In the next three to five years, Henderson expects there will be a lot more work than Williams and McCurry in the department.
He wants an entire department that is strictly committed to mental health and wellness.
He said, “I will ask for the moon, and I will continue to ask for it, because it is important.” “Now, when you think about it, we have two full-time jobs. Can we go from two to five? And from five to seven? And then we’ll go from there.”
Contact Ryan Black at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanABlack.