For athletes stuck in a situation that deteriorates their mental health, the transfer portal offers new opportunities to change lives.
For years, college athletes were essentially owned by the universities that they attended. They had no rights to their name, image, and likeness, and could not transfer from school to school without facing a year-long sporting ban. But now, with increased pressure from federal and state legislators, the NCAA has altered both of these rules allowing more freedom for individual athletes, especially those struggling with their mental health.
To dive deeper we can examine the new transfer rule, which allows athletes to make one transfer during their career without facing a year of residency, in which they are not allowed to play sports. Whether it is the toxic culture of a team, the city or state they live in, or the loneliness they face on campus, these athletes now have the choice to pick up their belongings and relocate to a new environment where conditions may be better. In the past, athletes would have been able to do so, but not been allowed to continue their athletic career that same year, which discouraged many from making the move.
In general, the mental health of college athletes worsened during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, as players around the country were unable to participate in their sports in the same way they were used to. Extensive health protocols, no in-person fans, and wearing masks around practice facilities was a lot to deal with for many college athletes.
For Baylor Basketball transfer Jaden Owens, the ability to transfer during Covid-19 and continue her career promptly made a major difference in her mentality. “I cried, and the thing is, I’m not a crier,” said Owens when referring to finding out she would retain eligibility to play as a transfer. “God was just answering my prayers,” she continued.
The NCAA rule changes have led college sports in the right direction concerning mental health initiatives, but the work is not done yet. The NCAA currently requires athletes to show proof of mental health struggles to be able to transfer for this reason. For many, it is difficult to present hard evidence of mental health struggles, another barrier that will hold back student-athletes.
With every step forward comes new responsibility to seek out the next step to make sure everyone is taken care of. Whether it is the NCAA, businesses, or government, we must always keep an eye out for what more we can do to ensure our friends and family are happy and healthy.