NCAA Survey Shows Overwhelmed, Depressed Student Athletes Played Through the Pandemic

Mark Emmert at a press conference.
Mark Emmert at a press conference. / Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The NCAA released the results of its own survey on the physical and mental health and well-being of student athletes during the pandemic. The survey, conducted between October 6 and November 2 of last year, was a follow-up to a survey done in the spring. With just under 25,000 student athletes participating, the results paint a bleak picture.

Eight percent of the respondents did not feel they had stable housing conditions for the next two months. Seventeen percent of men and 13 percent of women felt they didn't have access to enough food to meet their daily needs. More than 30 percent of both felt they didn't have access to enough healthy foods. So if you look at any team in the country, it's likely someone on that team is suffering from food insecurity and unsure where they will be sleeping when the season ends. On top of all that, 20 percent of men and 30 percent of women had concerns about managing exposure to COVID-19. In almost every category, women were more likely to have concerns than men and student-athletes of color were more likely to have concerns than white student-athletes.

Some numbers had improved since the spring survey. Fewer student-athletes were having trouble sleeping, felt mentally exhausted, lonely, sad, or angry. Still, 27 percent of male student athletes and 51 percent of female athletes still felt overwhelmed. Ten percent of male student athletes and 16 percent of female student-athletes felt things were hopeless.

So things were slightly better than they were a few months ago, but they were also much worse when compared to data from between 2015 to 2017. The survey confirms that playing sports during the pandemic had an adverse affect on many student-athletes. Especially those who were not straight white men.

The worst part is that this won't change anyone's mind. The decision to play sports was not made with the well-being of the student-athletes in mind. It was a financial decision and based on the way some of these kids felt, it's clear the finances didn't help. Just because it's not surprising doesn't make it any less sad.

It's something to consider as we prepare to watch March Madness over the next few weeks. Each team probably features a player uncertain about their food and housing situation when the team's tournament run ends. And if you don't like thinking about that, imagine living it.