Photo Courtesy of Athlete Minds Matter
It was March 2020, and Samantha Jacques and the Suffolk University softball team had just flown to Florida to play in a yearly tournament. They didn’t know that this would be the last time they would ever take the field together — or that it would change their journeys forever.
Jacques remembers playing in the first game of the tournament when the Westminster University team was pulled off the field in the middle of their game.
“We got to the bottom of the fifth inning and their athletic trainer came running on the field and said they have to pull the girls off the field,” said Jacques.
After that, she had a sense that the end of her career was coming sooner rather than later.
“I saw our coach walking toward us and she put her sunglasses on, and we realized this wasn’t going to be good news. She came over and told us the GNAC was cancelling the rest of the season” she said. “Then it was just water works.”
With one final game remaining, Jacques left it all out on the field, having one of the best games in her career with a personal record of two hits and two total bases, along with fielding the final out.
But once the season officially came to a close, Jacques was left with a roller coaster of emotions that was difficult to cope with.
“It was one of the hardest things I probably had to experience just in life and in softball. I was really excited about this season. We had 11 freshmen who were all super talented, a brand new team and the chemistry was so much better,” said Jacques.
Jacques didn’t want her softball journey to end there. Since the end of her playing career, she has begun coaching a travel softball team.
“Being able to stay involved in the game and coach the next generation has been really rewarding. Even though we’ve only played in two tournaments, just the relationships I’ve been able to build with them has been great,” said Jacques.
Recently, Jacques was approached by Ivy Watts, a former student athlete and current Mental Health Empowerment speaker. Watts was about to launch an organization called Athlete Minds Matter, a platform for student athletes to get help with mental health with the aim of breaking the stigma around it.
The website has many components to it, such as journal features, mental health resources, support forums and stories that give students access to an abundance of resources that can help with their needs.
“When Ivy reached out to me, I knew I wanted to be involved because I know if I had this type of resource as a student athlete, it wouldn’t have made me feel like I was the only one going through this,” said Jacques. “It would have given me methods and a way to cope with it.”
With the immense amount of pressure on some student athletes to succeed both on the field and in the classroom, Jacques believes this resource can be vital to help students all over the country. Mental health is still a touchy subject among some, but Jacques acknowledges that it is becoming more acceptable to talk about it as each year passes. As more athletes like Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Hayden Hurst of the Atlanta Falcons speak out about their experiences, the stigma continues to break down.
The long-term goal for Athlete Minds Matter is to partner in some way with the NCAA, but as a young organization that just launched a few weeks ago, they’re still taking it step by step.
“I think our goal right now is just to reach as many student athletes as we can and get as many of them involved, whether it be their school buying a subscription or just following us on Instagram just so they know they’re not the only ones feeling this way,” Jacques said.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NFrieburger