GREENVILLE, Pa. (WKBN) – This week marks Student Athlete Mental Health Week. The practice was started by Hilinski’s Hope, a foundation that honors a Washington State University quarterback who died by suicide.
Over 150 colleges recognize the week, including Thiel College in Greenville.
“It’s a sensitive top that people in general have a hard enough time talking about, and then you add in males and you add in football players, and they’re expected to be warriors,” said Kevin McLane, defensive line coach.
McLane has been the defensive line coach for Thiel football for a few years. But more than taking care of his athlete’s physical well-being, he takes care of their mental health, too, running a support group every Monday to help them deal with trauma, criticism and the pressure that comes with being an athlete.
“Making sure they understand that they’re celebrated and are about here. They’re loved and appreciated,” McLane said.
McLane says because athletes are trained to be tough on the field it can make it difficult for them to bring down their walls.
“It becomes a lot harder to not only recognize but then to talk about and handle the situations that you might see yourself as weak for going through,” he said.
McLane said the group is a resource he wishes he had in his past. To him, things like this make coaching about more than just the game.
“Really taking full advantage of the chance given to us to help raise these young men and turn them into people that they can continue to be proud of,” McLane said.
McLane is grateful for groups like Hilinski’s Hope for making those struggles impossible to ignore. He hopes to expand his mental health group to other teams at the college.
“It’s really important that we get the kids comfortable being in a setting like that because a lot of them haven’t been,” McLane said.