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Letter to the Editor: Mental Health Story Inaccurate

Editors’ note: In the original post, the authors quoted students who pointed out a lack of mental health resources for the football team and finals week practices with no days off for the girls basketball team.The title suggested that the article reflected the actions of the Athletic Department. We regret the decision to not fact check the sources nor interview any of the involved coaches. We are currently reaching out to more athletes and coaches in order to present complete perspectives on the topic of stress in student athletes, and we are changing the title to focus on stress rather than mental health as a whole. The following letter is a reply from the girls basketball team coach concerning the original article posted.

Invisible Injuries: How M-A Athletes deal with Mental Health

To Whom It May Concern:

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to respond to your Mental Health article. I am sad to hear one of our former freshman basketball players went through an entire season feeling stressed and unsupported. My players’ wellbeing has always been a top priority for me. Our coaches work really hard to make sure every player that comes through our program feels supported and know our coaches are available to talk with them about anything. I truly believe we are doing a good job of getting this message across to our players as I have had several players come to me with problems that did not have anything to do with basketball. It should be noted our concern for our players’ wellbeing does not end when our players graduate from high school. We try to stay in touch with our former players and support them in anyway we can.

During basketball season, our coaches address mental health by having individual check-ins with our players throughout the season. Additionally, we are constantly looking out for warning signs of mental health issues in our players. If I notice a change in a player’s personality or behavior, I will speak with them and discuss ways our coaches can help them. If necessary I will reach out to their parents and/or seek professional assistance. I have allowed players to arrive to practice late so that they can attend their therapy sessions and doctor appointments. I have offered to connect players with other professionals if they are not comfortable talking with our coaches about their mental health issues, problems they are experiencing at school, or issues they may be having at home. Lastly, our coaches organize fun team gatherings throughout the season so our players can take a break from school and basketball. It also gives our players an opportunity to improve their relationship with their teammates. Our coaches encourage our players to support one another on and off the basketball court.

Finally, I think it is important for me to address the inaccurate statements included in your article about our M-A Girls Basketball program. Our basketball team’s season goes from November through March. During our season there is no week that we are prohibited from practicing. However, we are not allowed to practice on Sundays. We give our players four to five days off during winter break, we do not practice on most holidays, and our players get two additional days off to prepare for final exams. CCS Bylaws allow teams to practice for up to three hours per day. Per PAL Bylaws, practices shall not be longer than two hours and 30 minutes per day. Our girls varsity basketball team practices Monday through Saturday for two hours and fifteen minutes per day. Our team has never practice on a Sunday. Furthermore, I have never told any of our players that I expect them to practice on Sundays. We are a competitive high school basketball team so our practices are competitive and can be challenging at times. However, we never expect our players to do more than we know they are capable of doing. Regarding our film sessions, some days we watch game film during our scheduled practice sessions. We use our game film as a learning tool as it allows us to slow the game down and evaluate our performance. I have never instructed our players to “call out” their teammates. While I usually do most of the talking during our film sessions, at times I will ask our players to identify mistakes we made during certain possessions in our game and share with the team what the correct action should have been. Ideally the knowledge we gain during our film sessions will help our team perform better in future games.

Our coaches want our players to enjoy their high school playing career and remain mentally and physically healthy. We will continue to support our players on and off the basketball court. Additionally, we will continue to help our players improve their athletic skills, accomplish their goals, and learn life skills through basketball.

Thank you,

Markisha Coleman Girls Varsity Basketball Coach Menlo-Atherton High School

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