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Survey: College Athletes Struggling with Shutdown

Andy Berg

College student-athletes are struggling to cope with the shutdown of athletics, according to a new NCAA survey of more than 37,000 cohorts.

Surveyed between April 10 and May 1, the majority of respondents reported experiencing high rates of mental distress. Fully 82 percent of the student-athletes surveyed said they felt “positive” or “very positive” about the support they are receiving from their coaches. However, over a third of respondents reported experiencing sleep difficulties, while more than a quarter reported feeling sadness and a sense of loss, and 10 percent reported feeling so depressed it has been difficult to function “constantly” or “most every day.”

Mental health concerns were highest among respondents of color, those whose families are facing economic hardship and those living alone, according to the NCAA. Additionally, college seniors reported a sense of loss at 1.5 times the rate of underclassmen. In most instances, the rates of mental health concerns were 150 percent to 250 percent higher than that historically reported by NCAA student-athletes in the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment.

As a result of the pandemic, 99 percent of respondents said their coursework had shifted online. 

Over 70 percent of participants indicated feeling positive about their ability to pass their spring courses, with a quarter feeling somewhat positive or somewhat negative and less than 5 percent feeling negative.

However, fewer student-athlete respondents indicated feeling positive about their ability to keep up with classes (51%).

Racial disparities were reported in housing and food stability and access to medical care, with white student-athletes indicating higher levels of agreement on all items as compared with participants of color.

Of note, 75 percent of black male student-athletes surveyed, compared with 92 percent of white males in the sample, said they have access to enough food, and 61 percent reported that healthy food options are readily available to them, as compared with 81 percent of white male participants. 

The survey was conducted by NCAA research in collaboration with the NCAA Sport Science Institute and the national Division I, II and III Student-Athlete Advisory Committees. Results are informing national office programming during spring and summer 2020 and being shared with NCAA governance committees, conference offices and athletics departments. The executive summary and detailed results can be found here.

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