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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento State was awarded a $12,500 grant through the NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant Program, designed to enhance college athletes' psychosocial well-being and mental health. The grant was written by Director of Student-Athlete Development and Success, Bethany Crouch and Associate Nursing Professor, Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn, Ed.D., FNP.

The national program is aimed at funding projects that will bring tangible benefits to college athletes when used by individuals or by NCAA member schools' athletics departments. This year's grant recipients will produce work that touches a wide range of areas, including first-year transition, career readiness, international student-athlete well-being and social media literacy.

The Sacramento State project will create podcasts where both former and current student-athletes will be able to share their experiences on topics including, transitioning into college, injury and redshirting, and life after college and sport.

"We plan on completing a podcast series with episodes on six pertinent themes which will hit on the topics that there isn't always a lot of discussion on; including, injury, redshirting, transferring, and letting go of the athlete identity," Crouch said. "This pilot will have the goal of producing a blueprint in hopes that NCAA member institutions can recreate this programming on their own campuses."

Dr. Mikal Flynn and Crouch are able to relate to the student-athlete experience beyond their work, as Mikal-Flynn raised three college athletes and Crouch competed gymnastics at the collegiate level. "There are many ups and downs associated when participating in college sports, and this collaboration with Bethany along with my research brings forth an innovative method to deliver necessary information to student-athletes – in supporting them during college life, providing guidance, and addressing issues in life outside of sport," Dr. Mikal-Flynn explained.

To help measure the success of the podcast, selected student-athletes will be surveyed before and after listening to an episode on resiliency and stress-mindset. Ultimately the collection of the data will determine if the podcasts invoke a growth mindset. 

A panel that reviewed the 87 proposals and selected grant awardees represented all three NCAA divisions and was composed of athletics administrators, scholars, current and former student-athletes, a mental health clinician, a student affairs professional and a faculty athletics representative. The committee, which funded grants in amounts ranging from $6,700 to $25,000, felt confident that the pilot programs funded will lead to programs that other colleges and universities can adopt for use on their campuses or adapt to fit their local needs.

Crouch serves as an Advisor in the Student-Athlete Resource Center and also oversees the Sacramento State Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). She earned her undergraduate degree at Sacramento State where she was also a member of the gymnastics team, and after graduating pursued a Masters in Sport Management at the University of San Francisco. 

Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn currently serves as an associate professor in the School of Nursing, teaching neuroscience at undergraduate and graduate levels. She earned her M.S.N. from Sacramento State and added a doctorate in education from Saint Mary's College.  Mikal-Flynn is a leader in metahabilitation which focuses on successfully managing trauma, crisis or catastrophic situations.