River Hawk Athletics Focuses on Holistic Health


The life of a student-athlete is a constant vacillation between preparing for the next big game and ensuring that your mind is sharp for an exam or quiz. Repetition of the exercise, proper nutrition and strategizing, mixed with hours of studying and rehearsing in the hope of getting the best grades possible, creates a very delicate balance.

Student-athletes should be prepared for hard work in the classroom and on the field. The way they approach both facets of their lives here at UMass Lowell is similar in that each requires attention to detail and dedication.

With the pressures of maintaining this balance, it is easy for student-athletes to feel overwhelmed, which can negatively impact their mental and physical health and performance.

For this reason, the athletics department at UMass Lowell has emphasized the importance of holistic health, focusing on healing practices for the body and mind as a single entity. It is the department’s hope that this can be a resource for student-athletes, supporting their efforts as a college student and athlete more completely beyond physical injury.

“Here at UMass Lowell, we talk a lot about the overall student-athlete experience and building the complete student-athlete,” explained the athletic director. Peter Casey. “Our River Hawks give their all, on and off the pitch, every day, and it is our job to provide them with full care and support, even beyond their sporting activities.”

Holistic health aims to nurture an individual by focusing on the entire health spectrum rather than separate components. It discusses nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management, while examining cognitive behaviors. This approach does not cure patients like traditional medicine does, although it can work in cooperation with drugs and treatments to achieve optimal health.

With that goal in mind, UMass Lowell Athletics hired David kells as Deputy Director of Student Athlete Advisory Services, a newly created position within the department. Kells received a master’s degree in social work from Smith’s College of Social Work and another in education from the University of Vermont. Previously, he worked at Saint Michael’s College and New England College where he provided outreach and counseling services to sports staff.

“We are committed to continuing to expand our healthcare network to incorporate a holistic approach for our student-athletes since I started at UMass Lowell,” said the assistant director of sports medicine and performance medicine. Lainie Williams. “The position of Deputy Director of Student Athlete Counseling Services is an important part that we have been working on for years and David kells here to help support our student-athletes will be a game-changer. “

Adopting this initiative also requires understanding. Studies show that young people today experience higher levels of stress and fatigue, as well as poor eating habits and inadequate personal care routines. All of this is the result of a lack of emphasis on personal care. By identifying faults in physical, social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual health habits, adjustments can be made to lead to a better quality of life.

To combat ineffective habits, a holistic health approach offers student-athletes various forms of therapeutic methods ranging from nutrition and yoga to counseling and of course physical rehabilitation.

“I am very happy and honored to be the first UMass Lowell advisor to dedicate himself to serving student-athletes,” commented Kells. “I understand that besides being human and dealing with all the challenges that every student faces, there are also the added pressures of being a Division I athlete. I’m here to listen, to help them. to figure out what is hindering their success and to help them create a plan and approach so that they can thrive. “

With the implementation of this new role and resource, student-athletes can feel free to take advantage of the additional assistance option whenever they need it. Senior field hockey midfielder Lindsey Kilpatrick (Manlius, NY) has expressed excitement that Kells will be on the staff.

“As student-athletes, we are delighted to welcome David to the River Hawk community,” said Kilpatrick. “Student-athletes, especially at the Division I level, face an immense amount of rigor and pressure on a daily basis. It is important that we, as a sports community, prioritize mental health as much as physical health. forget that mental well-being is integral to the success of student-athletes. “

The dietary needs of student-athletes have also become a tenant for River Hawk Athletics in this holistic approach, with the work of dietitian Melissa Quirk of UMass Lowell Dining Services at the forefront. Eating healthy isn’t just about knowing how much or what to eat, it’s about when and how to prepare those meals. Quirk also aims to teach students to think beyond what’s on the plate in front of them.

“Using a holistic approach when working with athletes means understanding and overcoming barriers to behavior change and respecting individual differences,” commented Quirk. “Treatment not only focuses on what and when to eat, but addresses the challenges of food preparation and access to food, recognizes food preferences and cultural practices around food, and addresses harmful beliefs about food and the associated ‘dietary rules’. ”

The holistic health initiative is not limited to athletics, but rather is embraced by UMass Lowell as a whole community. Brenda Evans, Dean of Student Affairs and Wellness at UMass Lowell, explained that the university is positioning itself to take a multidimensional approach to student care on campus.

“We really strive to shine a light on the general well-being of all of our student body here at UMass Lowell,” explained Evans. “From taking steps to provide financial education to encouraging healthy eating habits and all dimensions of wellness in between, our long-term vision is to make health holistic and of the well-being of our students an ongoing conversation. We need to continue to be proactive and use all of our partnerships across campus. “

To this end, UMass Lowell recently announced the establishment of the Office of Student Life and Welfare. This office will aim to promote holistic elements in student care, work with campus leadership to implement wellness-first strategies, and collaborate with partners on campus and beyond to obtain feedback on the impact and progress of these approaches.

While the stressors of being a student-athlete are constant and evolving, it is clear that UMass Lowell’s mission is to provide all the support needed to put his River Hawks on the path to success on the pitch. play, in the classroom and beyond.


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