Athletes are often told to push through, to endure, but that’s not always the case, sometimes we’re not okay, so having mentors come into our world and see what we deal with, to have an outlet, someone to listen to us, it’s very impactful.
The perception of the collegiate student-athlete is often more “athlete” than “student.”
“As student-athletes we are often viewed only as athletes, we are seen as the sport we play, that we put our academics on the back burner, but that is not the case at all,” said Alex Ruprecht, ’21, G’23.
Prior to graduating with a degree in English, and pursuing her master’s degree in special education, Ruprecht was a standout softball player at Bridgewater State University, playing outfield and serving as captain for two years as well as being named the 2022 MASCAC softball player of the year.
Many don’t understand the pressures student-athletes face, Ruprecht said, but between going to class, practice, games, lifting in the gym, studying, and sometimes even working, finding a balance can be challenging.
“I think having people come into our world to see all we deal with on any given day would be eye opening,” Ruprecht said.
In an effort to better support student-athletes, a new faculty mentor program was recently launched at BSU.
Dr. Robert MacMillan, education and health sciences professor, reached out to the campus community inviting faculty members to sign up and serve as a mentor for one of Bridgewater’s 22 athletic teams.
The goal of the faculty mentor program is to build relationships between faculty, coaches, and student athletes, to fully understand the tremendous value of intercollegiate athletics at Bridgewater State.
Mentors are encouraged to attend practices and games, to meet with coaching staff to discuss shared goals and serve as supporter, fan, and resource to the team they are assigned.
The response has been positive, with multiple faculty signing up to participate.
“It’s been great for everyone involved,” MacMillan said.
Former Division I softball player and current social work Professor Leslie Sattler mentors the women’s softball team. Prior to teaching, Sattler also worked as a therapist.
Because of her background, she felt she would be a good fit for the program.
“I want to help student-athletes see the intangibles, how all the transferable skills you gain from athletics apply to job skills. That all of this hard work is not just for the game, or to win, but it’s so you land leadership jobs in your future, you see your earning potential and build a skill set,” Sattler said.
Sociology Professor Meghan Murphy is a faculty mentor for the women’s soccer team.
Once she initially heard about the program, knew she wanted to sign up.
“Students involved in high impact practices, such as playing an intercollegiate sport, and who connect with faculty on a personal level, retain and graduate at a higher rate than their peers,” she said. “I was interested in joining this initiative immediately as the benefit of this type of support for our student-athletes is extremely beneficial.”
For Alex Ruprecht, having the additional layer of support from faculty mentors is “huge.”
“Athletes are often told to push through, to endure, but that’s not always the case, sometimes we’re not okay, so having mentors come into our world and see what we deal with, to have an outlet, someone to listen to us, it’s very impactful,” she said. “It can really help us better learn to be successful not just as athletes, but also as college students.”
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