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Beyond the Game: Unsung Heroes of Athletic Wellness

Introducing our latest blog feature: shining a spotlight on the unsung heroes within athletic organizations. These individuals often toil behind the scenes, tirelessly ensuring the holistic well-being of student athletes and staff, yet their contributions often go unnoticed. This week, we kick off our series by showcasing one of our esteemed partners, Marquette University's Director of Athlete Mental Health, the remarkable Kari Lewis. Join us as we delve into her invaluable work and the profound impact she makes on the lives of those she serves.

  1. What’s your name and where are you from? Kari Lewis. I was born in Chicago and raised in Milwaukee.

  2. How long have you been at Marquette University and what did you do before? I transitioned to Marquette in September of 2020. Initially, I worked in the counseling center as the coordinator for Black/African American students. This role emerged following social justice movements nationwide, with the aim of ensuring students felt psychologically safe when seeking mental health treatment. I held this position for almost two years before transitioning to the role of Director of Student-Athlete Mental Health.

  3. How has the transition into college athletics been? And what has been the best thing another support staff role has done to make your job easier?Transitioning into athletics has been exciting, with something new to learn every day. While stepping into the role of Director was intimidating, my colleagues assured me of my value and necessity. They've nurtured my inquisitive nature, understanding that asking frequent questions fosters deeper understanding of processes and programs, ultimately aiding me in excelling in my role.

  4. What would you say is the hardest part about supporting an entire college athletic program? And what would you advise other peers in your position that are solo providers in athletics? One of the biggest challenges as a solo provider is being the sole person responsible. While I'm confident in my skills as a mental health clinician, crises can detract from scheduled appointments and administrative duties. Participation in consultation groups has been invaluable, offering support, connections on a clinical level, and helping to navigate challenging situations. I strongly recommend other solo practitioners to engage in similar groups, as they provide significant benefits.

  5. How are you prepping to involve technology in your practice as it evolves? And what do you hope the technology companies upgrade to help you? I aim for technology to be interactive and innovative, encouraging students to naturally engage with apps that support mental health. Collaborating more closely with mental health clinicians during app development would ensure the integrity of our work and enhance effectiveness.

  6. What is something about this role that has surprised you? Honestly, nothing has surprised me in this role. I anticipated challenges and the need for continuous learning. I've learned to embrace resistance and provide ample education regarding my role in the mental health field.

  7. What do you wish athletes knew about your work that they currently don't? I wish athletes understood how much I value and love therapy. Recently, a student asked me, "Isn’t your job hard?" I explained that while administrative tasks and daily interactions with students can be challenging, the most rewarding aspect is witnessing their resilience as they return to my office after difficult sessions.

  8. How do you prioritize your wellbeing? I prioritize my wellbeing by learning to leave work at the office and cherish my time at home with my family, who continually support and uplift me. Additionally, I incorporate grounding techniques to stay present and fully engage in the moment, enhancing my overall sense of wellness.

As we wrap up our spotlight on Kari Lewis, Director of Athlete Mental Health at Marquette University, we're excited to announce that this is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more stories showcasing the unsung heroes of athletic wellness. Join us in supporting their vital work and championing holistic well-being within athletic organizations. Keep an eye out for more inspiring tales of dedication and resilience coming your way soon.



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