Balance and Mental Health in NCAA Division I Student-Athletes: An Existential Humanistic View

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The authors adopt an existential-humanistic perspective in an effort to resolve the challenges of balance and mental health as they have emerged in the lives of Division I college athletes. The authors find that elite performance is in conflict with the balance and mental health of student-athletes. Consequently, the authors are critical of the role of athletics programs in higher education. This conflict emerges in the existential contexts of health, development, and balance. With health, the normal, biological self-actualizing process of the person is exchanged for a performance-at-all-costs model. In development, the breadth of richness of meaning of the entire life span is exchanged for the richness of meaning of a few years—those of athletic prowess. Balance carries 2 meanings. Balance is health and well-being, particularly mental health insofar as student-athletes find their way into a meaningful “life-structure” (as defined by Levinson, 1986). Balance can also refer to the modern medical practice of addressing 1 excess (excessive training) with another (sports medicine). When viewed together, these contexts allow the student-athlete to be viewed as a whole person. Moreover, these conflicts are a consequence of the performance-centric model of sports, and increasingly performance, psychologies. In conclusion, suggestions are made to mitigate against the existential problems that have been presented.

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