Normalization of mental health – Massachusetts Daily Collegian – The Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Dowiak’s key to limiting the stress of an overwhelming schedule

Finally getting under the covers, the moonlight peering through the blinds and onto the sedulous faces of Jason Dowiak and the Massachusetts women’s soccer team, their minds still race with endless thoughts of the tasks and obligations the following day beholds.

The struggles of mental health span across all professions and all stages of life, seemingly affecting everyone at some point or another, but surely those who constantly put their bodies and minds through never-ending challenges.

“The biggest thing we’re trying to do is make [mental health] a normal conversation,” Dowiak said. “It’s good to talk about how you feel. I think being able to express yourself and not feel judged about things that are bothering you is very important for trust building and individual self-confidence.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 regular season was pushed to the spring. Over the course of many months, players were left at home, isolated, and in work environments not typical for a Division I athlete.

At-home workouts consisted of bodyweight movements along with the random equipment that crept its way into the attic over the course of many years.

Meetings were moved to Zoom, where Dowiak and his players sat behind a small square on the screen which hid the mental battles that this prolonged period of isolation created.

“I have definitely had some mental health issues over the last 20 months or so,” Dowiak said. “Trying to manage things with our players and take stress away from them [has] inevitably added stress to me.”

Dr. Nicole Gabana, the sports psychologist on staff at UMass, has provided an outlet for the Minutewomen and Dowiak as someone to talk to outside of the soccer field for support when these issues arise.

“We spend a lot of time training the physical and technical aspects of the game,” Gabana said.

“At this high level, the difference you can see in competitive situations often comes down to how players, teams and coaches are responding to events that happen and a lot of that is the mental component of the game. I think it’s just as important as training the physical [component].”

The Minutewomen’s biggest setback on the pitch this season came directly after a 10-game unbeaten run, stretching through the entire month of September.

Seven minutes into overtime against Virginia Commonwealth, UMass goalkeeper Bella Mendoza parried a shot wide. The ball rolled its …….


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