Student-athletes join The Bandana Project

Clement Mainguy holds his backpack with the green bandana and a card with mental health resources. Photo by: Jillian McIntosh / The Jambar

By Jillian McIntosh

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee announced its partnership with The Bandana Project at Youngstown State University’s football game Oct. 7. 

Student-athlete leaders of SAAC have attached green bandanas to their backpacks to promote awareness for mental health on campus. 

Clement Mainguy, a junior on the Youngstown State men’s tennis team, said students that have a bandana are trained to handle concerns of fellow student-athletes. 

“I’m wearing the bandana right now. People who wear the bandana on their bag are the people you can stop at any time on campus and they’re safe to talk to,” Mainguy said. “We do this pledge where we’ll help anyone [that comes] see us.”

Student-athlete leaders will also provide resource cards about YSU’s Student Counseling Services.

Jacob Sylak, a junior on the YSU’s men’s golf team, also carries a green bandana on his bag. Sylak said the project is a great outlet for the community.

“We like to talk to people [and] we like to get to know people,” Sylak said. “Everybody should feel that they’re welcome to talk to you, but the green bandana project is just another resource of getting that out to the public.”

Kierstan Lentz, a former student-athlete on the YSU swimming & diving team, said she struggled with mental health during her time as an athlete. 

“As a student-athlete, it was really hard to find time for meals and even snacks,” Lentz said. “I found myself eating in classes a lot of the time and some professors are okay with that, others are not.” 

Lentz said she practiced strategies to cope with her stress on days of competitions.

“The day before a meet, I would try to do a lot of relaxing things like meditate. I would go to a yoga class, I would try to read a book, just to kind of distract myself from getting nervous,” Lentz said.

Grace Stovka, a junior dietetics major, ran track for almost two years at YSU. Stovka said her experience was challenging but hopes the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics can improve its wellness resources for students.

“Just genuinely checking in on their student-athletes, it’s a lot to handle. It’s very demanding and some of us can act like we’re okay and [that] we’re really not going through a lot,” Stovka said. 

Stovka said there are warning signs the athletic community can look out for.

“Warning signs [include] probably not going to class,” Stovka said. “If you’re not performing as well during practice. You can have bad days — but if it’s consistent — I would probably check on that athlete.”

According to the National Collegiate Athletics Association, 69% of women and 63% of men that are student-athletes said they know the resources on campus for their mental health.  

Jen Tymkew is the associate athletics director and director of Athletic Training Services. She said student-athletes are required to get a physical exam once a year, that also addresses mental well-being.

“They take a couple of questionnaires and it gives us an idea of where that student athlete is from a baseline perspective,” Tymkew said. “We’re able to look in some key areas we know college students struggle in — depression and anxiety for two of the utmost.”

The YSU Athletic Department works in collaboration with the Office of the Dean of Students and Student Counseling Services.

“In conjunction with those two entities, [we] provide resources for our student-athletes, not only the ones that flag on those screens that might have higher numbers, but even the ones that are just walking in the door,” Tymkew said. “We want them to be aware of those on campus resources so that they know what they are in case they ever want them.”

Contact 330-941-3737 for Student Counseling Services, which are available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

For emergencies, dial 911 immediately or go to the nearest emergency room.