MEQUON, Wis. – Concordia Wisconsin athletics takes great pride in giving its student-athletes the best possible resources to compete at the highest level on the field, be successful in the classroom and make sure their bodies are in the best possible condition for competition. In an effort to fit the University’s mission of being a complete human self in mind, body and spirit, Dr. Rob Barnhill has announced that Jeremy Schumacher is now the Mental Wellness Coach.
Schumacher, an assistant women’s volleyball coach, has an extensive background in counseling and takes on this new role to help student-athletes with any mental health needs they may have. In collaboration with the counseling department, athletic training and the athletic department on campus, his decade of experience makes him the best person to the be the point of contact for 700 student-athletes if any of them needs to talk about mental health or just have a conversation about the many challenges student-athletes face on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
“Jeremy has the credentials, the training and the experience in counseling,” Vice President of Student Life Steve Taylor said. “He has two professional loves, volleyball and counseling. So, he is working part of his load developing programs specifically targeted to student-athlete mental health well-being within athletics. He has the ability to counsel student-athletes within the athletic offices, where they might feel more comfortable. This is a model and strategy we have seen at other schools, especially in NCAA Division I programs who have counselors within athletics.”
Schumacher earned a Master’s Degree in counseling psychology from Marquette University. Schumacher also completed his post-graduate studies at the Family Therapy Training Institute. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in psychology, with a cultural studies minor at the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining the women’s volleyball coaching staff, he worked in private practice as a licensed marriage and family therapist.
“I liked the dynamic of the family and marriage component that transfers very well into team dynamics,” the fourth-year assistant noted. “How are you with your teammates, how do you respond to your coach, what are the hierarchies, what are the dynamics of the relationship, all of that stuff fits well with my background. Besides just my experience as an athlete and as a coach, the type of therapy I studied was systems therapy. You can think of a system as a family, or a couple or as a team, it is all dynamics and human relationships.”
A survey of nearly 21,000 NCAA Division I, II and III college athletes at nearly 600 schools indicated mental health issues were not uncommon. Approximately 30 percent of students self-reported feeling overwhelmed within a month prior to the survey was conducted. And according to a study at Drexel University surveying 465 athletes at NCAA Division I colleges, 28 percent of female athletes reported "clinically relevant" levels of depression compared with 18 percent of male athletes.
“Athletes want someone who is familiar with being an athlete,” Schumacher added. “So mental health is a part, but the relatability of playing college sports is important and being involved daily in a college sport as a coach really helps. The stigma is a whole separate thing that I am going to be working on, mental health that is. Hopefully, we will be changing some of the culture around it, but that’s athletics everywhere that is not unique to here.
“Ideally most people assume the mind is the school part, but I think the school part is most often stressful for students. So, trying to approach it where we build it up as kids are practicing how to weight lift correctly, so they don’t injure themselves as they work with their coaches on form and technique. We should work on mental health as a skill, as opposed to saying some people are mentally strong and some are not. They can practice skills for their sport and our student-athletes can practice skills for their mental health if I approach it in a way that makes sense to them.”
Overall, 33 percent of college students have clinically significant symptoms of mental health, and about 30 percent of those students seek help. However, of the one-third of student-athletes with mental health issues, only 10 percent seek help.
“I think this is a really forward-thinking thing,” Taylor expressed. “Our student-athletes are not immune to anxiety, depression, all different struggles that all students face. This is a way for us to target student-athletes in a way that very few schools are. I think this is us striking on an opportunity. If it wasn’t for the fact that we had Jeremy as an assistant coach and the training he has to do this, it probably wouldn’t be happening. I certainly believe it fits within our mission of mind, body and spirit. So, it was not just us making something up, there was a trend that we certainly see within the counseling center, the growth of student psychological needs. We also see concerns of behavior student-athletes potentially could have. Combining the two supports the opportunity that we have to see the benefit of what we could get from this. How could we serve a section of the student population in student-athletes who would otherwise be underserved.”