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USF softball team discusses importance of mental health in college athletics

Published: May. 22, 2022 at 11:09 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The University of Sioux Falls softball team has dealt with a lot of adversity this past spring following the suicide of one of their recruits, Paige Roessner. After the tragedy, the Cougars were faced with heavy emotions for the remainder of their season.

Photojournalist Sam Tastad sat down with USF players and coaches to talk about Paige’s impact on them.

“Mental health is just not something talked about with sports,” said USF senior Kylie Madrid.

“To feel like there are young people of any age or gender that feel like any situation is too big, that taking their life is the answer, that’s really hard,” said USF softball head coach Shannon Pivovar.

“I had a streak with Paige, and I was literally talking to her a week before, and that I was so excited to play with her and be her teammate. Her smile lit up the room,” said Madrid.

“I always had in the back of my mind that Paige was watching over we do and just be the best person we are because she was such a sweet person,” said USF senior Kait Van Der Zwaag.

“The thought of someone that one of us loves, and it could have been any of us feeling that way is horrible and you don’t want anyone to feel that way. Knowing that one of us could, really brought us together. We really reached out to each other and told each and everyone one of us we loved each other,” said USF senior Kylan Straight.

“If we had any other combination of kids this year, I don’t know we get through the year,” said Pivovar.

“I think it was difficult for some of us to open up about it, but we had really good resources in our coaches and administration that told us if you need anything, if you need someone to talk to, please let us know,” said Straight.

“It’s definitely hard to talk about, when you look at a college athlete, you expect them to have everything,” said Van Der Zwaag.

“One the things we really preach, is you are a human first,” said Pivovar.

“Like we don’t want to reach out sometimes, and we just put pressure on ourselves and to know it’s just a game, you are a human, and you make mistakes, but putting your mental health first and it’s okay to not be okay,” said Madrid. “You go through so much every week, every day whether it’s school or sports. You are not alone in your fight. We all go through stuff we don’t know about.”

“It’s a problem and it’s almost scary how common or how much it is happening. To know that other programs have been going through something similar that we did really hit close to home,” said Straight.

“My role, as yes, It’s X’s and O’s on the diamond, but it’s way more than that and it’s making sure they are okay off the field,” said Pivovar.

“It’’s okay to feel whatever you are feeling, but definitely know you are not alone. Like no matter if you feel like you are alone, you are definitely aren’t and somebody out there cares and loves you. We knew that we could look to our left and right and have somebody there who loves us and could lean on when we couldn’t lean on ourselves,” said Straight.

“We don’t want you to be a helmet decal. We don’t want to be carrying around people’s jerseys. We want you here. We want physical bodies here. We want you in that jersey when you get here, in our dugout with our team, with our family, and while we are going to remember Paige and think about her all the time and play for her, it would be a lot better if she was here to play with us,” said Pivovar.

In spite of their trials, the Cougars finished the season strong, coming just a game shy of the NSIC championship.

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