"This is What We Sign Up For": Questioning the Student-Athlete Experience at Haverford College
Haverford College. Department of Anthropology
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Historically, concepts and values of health have primarily focused on physical health without considering the implications that mental health has on physical health and general well-being. With growing conversations about what it means to maintain "good" mental health, this thesis explores the ways that mental health plays out in the dynamics of collegiate student-athletes, but this conversation is not always prevalent in regards to smaller NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division III schools like Haverford College. Mental health has a major role in the everyday life of collegiate student-athletes as a result of the emphasis on the physical body within athletics coupled with the pressures that come along with attaining a college education. Through feminist ethnography and autoethnographic work, I highlight the experiences of four fellow student-athletes as well as my own experiences as a student-athlete at Haverford College to explore the sailence of mental health for student-athletes, including the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health. Through this exploration, I argue that structures within collegiate athletic departments and the higher education institution of Haverford College shown through expectations of student-athletes stress an idealization of the student-athlete experiences. This idealization leads to values and social norms that create an environment of toxic positivity that are internalized and impact the ways that student-athletes understand and approach challenges with mental health. Ultimately, these settings are not conducive with the promotion of positive mental health and can actually create more challenges, and this thesis questions whether the current structure of higher education is able to properly support student-athlete mental health and student's mental health generally.