Sarah Noll Named Sports Wellness Coordinator for Athletics Dept.
South Carolina’s commitment to the welfare of Gamecock student-athletes goes beyond broad access to healthcare for their physical well-being, but also to meeting their mental health needs. Sarah Noll has recently been brought on staff as Sports Wellness Coordinator for South Carolina’s student-athletes.
“My goal is to make sure the student-athletes have comprehensive healthcare; treating their mental health as well as their physical health,” Noll said. “If coaches or support staff feel like a student-athlete needs individual counseling or medications, it will be funneled through me, where I will be making assessments, providing referrals, individual therapy, and educational seminars for groups to get them where they need to be.”
A graduate of Wofford University, Noll earned her master’s degree at South Carolina, and has spent the last 13 years working in the mental health field, with the last 10 years at an in-patient psychiatric unit, in addition to her own private practice where she sees individuals for therapy.
“We’re thankful for our partnership with Palmetto Health which made the Sports Wellness Coordinator position possible,” said Athletics Director Ray Tanner. “As part of the Gamecock Student-Athlete Promise, the student-athletes already have access to psychologists and psychiatrists when needed. This new position adds another quality layer of support for them.”
“We want to educate student-athletes, coaches, and support staff as much as possible on the various signs and symptoms of mental illness and coping skills so that they can be the best they can be.” Noll said. “The biggest thing is making sure they are feeling good and have healthy coping skills to be able to handle the stress and pressure of being a student-athlete and the pressure they put on themselves, while also being ready to manage life after sports.
“In the assessment and referral piece of what I do, if it’s something that is a sports psychology sort of thing, I’ll refer them to a sports psychologist. If it’s something more ‘off the field,’ such as depression, anxiety, or coping skills; that’s my realm.”
I think the NCAA sees the value of having strong mental health and being prepared to handle stress and pressure that student-athletes face.Sarah Noll
Noll will get to know coaches and athletic trainers individually. Coaches and Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine John Kasik will notify her about student-athletes who need such attention.
“Initially, I’m going to meet with coaches and support staff so that they know who I am and what the process will look like,” Noll added.
More emphasis is being put on the mental health in recent years in the wake of tragedies such as suicides involving student-athletes. Identifying issues and helping student-athletes work through them before it’s too late is critical.
“I think the NCAA sees the value of having strong mental health and being prepared to handle stress and pressure that student-athletes face,” Noll said. “It’s also important for them to have an identity outside of being an athlete because not everyone goes on to play professionally. They need to be able to cope with that.”
As she settles into her new position with the Gamecocks, Noll said she is excited about every aspect of her job.
“The fact that it’s a new position and that we can create something that is going to be helpful to all of the student-athletes, support staff and coaches is exciting,” Noll said. “The fact that it is something that can be duplicated in other colleges and universities makes it a really exciting time for the field of mental health.”