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Fueling Change: $100,000 Grants Propel Student-Athlete Mental Health and Social Media Research



Three distinguished research collectives, honored as recipients of the Innovations in Research and Practice Grant, have been allocated a sum totaling $100,000 to spearhead investigations into the realms of student-athlete mental well-being and their utilization of social media platforms.

In the upcoming academic cycle of 2024-25, these three teams are set to embark on endeavors aimed at bolstering the psychosocial welfare and mental health of student-athletes.

The NCAA’s Innovations in Research and Practice Grant Program is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. The adjudicating panel, comprised of a diverse array of stakeholders including current student-athletes, academic experts, athletics administrators, and mental health professionals, meticulously sifted through over 140 submissions. Ultimately, they identified three standout projects deemed worthy of funding, each holding the promise of being scalable and adaptable for broader application across campuses nationwide.

Eric Laudano, the chair of the review panel and a senior associate athletics director at Saint Joseph’s, expressed his enthusiasm for the robust engagement seen in this year’s grant program. Laudano remarked on the considerable challenge faced by the panel in selecting the final recipients, given the abundance of high-quality proposals. He voiced confidence in the potential of these projects to significantly benefit the student-athlete community and the broader NCAA membership, as their outcomes are poised to be disseminated widely in 2025.

Throughout the forthcoming academic year, the findings of these initiatives will be shared with the NCAA membership:

  1. Hofstra University Project Title: “Share, Like, and Subscribe: Understanding the Influence of Social Media on Student-Athlete Identity and Team Dynamics.” Project Directors: Rebecca Bertuccio, Ph.D., NCSP, LP; Brittany Rhoden, MSEd, MSc; Grace Landrigan, MPH.
  2. University of Kansas Project Title: “Online Resilience: Equipping Student-Athletes with Strategies to Navigate Social Media Feedback.” Project Directors: Nataliya Bredikhina, Ph.D.; Bomin Paek, Ph.D.
  3. University of Delaware Project Title: “The Locker Room Files: Crafting Data-Driven Strategies for Digital Well-being in the Face of Social Media Challenges.” Project Directors: Claire Wanzer, M.A.; Amy Bleakley, Ph.D., MPH.

Noteworthy is the collaborative nature of the project led by Wanzer and Bleakley, which will involve partnerships with multiple Division I and Division II athletics departments.

The external review panel responsible for selecting the grant recipients comprises a diverse cohort of experts from various domains:

  • Eric Laudano, Senior Associate Director of Athletics for High Performance, Saint Joseph’s (Panel Chair)
  • Ashley Cozad, Women’s Swimming and Diving Student-Athlete, North Florida
  • Margrethe Frøland, Women’s Skiing Student-Athlete, Saint Michael’s
  • Hugo Garcia, Men’s Soccer Student-Athlete, Wabash
  • John Ritzen, Women’s Golf Head Coach, Chadron State
  • Jeff Ruser, Sport Psychology Specialist, Notre Dame
  • Ally Smith, Associate Head Athletic Trainer/Part-Time Faculty, Otterbein
  • Cheryl Stuntz, Professor of Psychology, St. Lawrence
  • Patricia Thomas, Director of Athletics, District of Columbia
  • Khirey Walker, Assistant Professor of Sport Management, Elon

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