The effect of stress on college athletes is often reflected in their physical, mental and emotional health.
Stress of The Freshman Year
Although the transition from high school to college is generally a stressful time for everyone, athletes in their first year of college often face a unique set of stressors. In addition to the stress of learning to live on their own, they must learn to adjust to college life and it's academic and athletic demands.
The following are several examples of possible sports related stressors experienced by freshmen college athletes:
- Learning to adjust to the extensive demands of their time from their commitment to their sport
- The fear of being red-shirted, or benched, during their freshman (Red-shirted means the athlete attends classes and team practices but is not allowed to play against other teams for the entire season)
- Worrying about conflicts with their coaches
- Adjusting to the change from being a high school star athlete to one of the new members of the team
- The fear of being injured while participating in their sport
Stress on College Athletes
Although some of the stressors felt during the first year of college alleviate as the athletes adjust to college life, they are replaced by others that generally last throughout their college years. Student athletes deal with stress both off and on the field. Each student athlete must maintain a certain academic grade level in order to remain on their team. For many college athletes, the demands of keeping up their grades and attending classes combined with rigorous sports practices and game schedules is a very stressful situation.
Additional factors adding to the stress levels of college athletes may include:
- Financial stress such as paying for college, keeping a scholarship or paying for everyday needs
- Working at a part time job
- Worrying about preforming well in their sport
- The pressure to win
- Missing classes, tests and assignments because of team travel
- Making up missing assignments and tests because of team travel
- A social life
- Peer pressure
- Not getting the necessary amount of sleep
- Not eating correctly
The Effects of Stress
The effects of stress and chronic stress experienced by college athletes affects them physically, emotionally and mentally. Although everyone does not have the exact same response to stress, in general the longer a person experiences chronic stress the more severe their symptoms.
Since stress affects every system in the human body, it manifests itself in many different ways and to different degrees. Some of the possible effects of stress include:
- A change in sleeping patterns or eating habits.
- Depression, anger or unusual irritability
- A rise in blood pressure
- Chest pain, tightness or pressure in the chest
- An increase in the heart rate
- Increased anxiety to a full anxiety attack
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory difficulties
- A weakened immune system resulting in frequent colds, cases of the flu and other communicable diseases.
- Headaches, stomachaches and digestive problems
- Pains in the back, neck and joints
- A decreased sex drive
- An increase in acne
- A significant weight gain or loss
Stress Management Techniques
Stress management techniques are effective tools for alleviating and eliminating stress. Not every stress management technique works for every person. If one method is not successful, try another. The following are several popular methods used to reduce stress:
- Meditation - There are a number of different types of meditation including:
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Passive muscle relaxation
- Guided imagery
- Deep breathing exercises
- Listening to relaxing music
- Taking a relaxing ride
- Getting a massage
- Tai chi
- Going for a walk, jog or run
- Playing a game
Learning effective stress management techniques helps to minimize the effects of stress on college athletes.