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Men's soccer coach part of NCAA Convention panel on mental health

2020-02-05-Patrice-Parris
UNG men's head soccer coach Patrice Parris was one of four panelists for a Division II discussion titled "Mental Wellness — Building Trust Between Coaches & Student-Athletes" at the 2020 NCAA Convention on Jan. 23 in Anaheim, California.

University of North Georgia (UNG) men's head soccer coach Patrice Parris was one of four panelists for a Division II discussion titled "Mental Wellness — Building Trust Between Coaches & Student-Athletes" at the 2020 NCAA Convention on Jan. 23 in Anaheim, California.

Parris shared some of UNG's practices that put the mental health at the forefront. Some of those steps include mental health screenings as part of physical screenings, the Hawk Em 101 mentorship program that pairs veteran student-athletes with freshmen or transfers, a system in which the medical and support staff make intentional monthly efforts to identify those who need assistance, and a bulletin board with information. He is grateful to Lindsay Reeves, UNG director of athletics, for these initiatives and nominating him for the panel.

Parris said coaches at UNG offer support and help their players find counselors if needed.

"If we're going to demand the physicality of the sports we coach, we also need to respect and coach the mental side. There needs to be equal growth on both ends," Parris said. "We're not there to fix it since we are not the experts, but we're there to be empathetic, and to listen and provide different resources regarding mental health assistance and education."

He said that open-door policy is where any productive mental health efforts begin. Parris noted that coaches must be transparent.

"When we don't speak about life to our student-athletes or each other, social media can give a false look that there are people in this world who never go through struggle or that they have their life in order. The truth is that all of us go through adversity," Parris said. "The more we talk about our life experiences, including our moments of adversity, to each other, the more we can assist with providing the necessary coping skills or an understanding of what life encompasses on this journey."

Other panelists along with Parris were Tina Davis-Fernandes, the head men's and women's track and field and cross country coach at Cal State Los Angeles; Alex Shillow, a Texas A&M University-Commerce football player and chairman of Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC); and California University of Pennsylvania volleyball player Madeleine McKenna, part of Division II SAAC's Mental Health Task Force.

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