Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

More than a game: Emerson Basketball participates in second annual ‘Mental Health Matters’ fundraiser

Arthur Mansavage
Three women’s basketball players wearing themed game shirts that say “Mental Health Matters” during a home game against MIT on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024. (Arthur Mansavage/Beacon Staff)

For the Emerson Women’s Basketball team, playing a sport competitively is more than wins and losses. The phrase “mental health matters” plastered across the team’s warm-up t-shirts during their matchup against MIT represents a term of empowerment—one they hope will transcend the game itself.  

The Lions hosted NEWMAC opponent, the MIT Engineers, at home in the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gymnasium during a doubleheader with the Emerson Men’s Basketball team on Jan. 31. Sophomore point guard Bri Frongillo once again led all scorers with 20 points as senior captain Ella Bushee trailed right behind with 17 points. Frongillo leads the NEWMAC conference in scoring, averaging 19.8 points per game. For the Engineers, Angie Choi led with 13 points, while Christina Antonakakis and Alice Hall both poured in 12 apiece.  

The back-and-forth game came down to decisive foul calls and turnovers. MIT stole the ball 11 times from Emerson’s 22 turnovers, which proved costly for the Lions.  

Despite a strong effort by the Lions, MIT was able to just outscore Emerson for the first three quarters to seal the win, ending the battle in their favor at 62-70. Aside from Emerson’s tough loss, the game symbolized a more worthy cause: the second annual “Mental Health Matters” gameday for the Lions. In collaboration with Emerson basketball, the women’s and men’s basketball teams raised just under two thousand dollars to donate to Doc Wayne Youth Services, a non-profit organization that specializes in sport-based therapy centered on improving mental health for the youth community. Each member of the teams sported “Mental Health Matters” t-shirts during warmups to raise awareness about the positive connection between mental health and playing sports.  

Senior guard for the women’s team Ava Salti did not hesitate to gush when asked why she started the “Mental Health Matters” fundraiser at Emerson College. As a student-athlete on both the basketball and soccer teams, Salti understands the mental toll and sacrifices made by athletes.

“It’s important to destigmatize certain topics, especially in the sports field,” Salti said in an interview with The Beacon. “Mental health isn’t often talked about so having an event like this with shirts that say, ‘Mental Health Matters,’ slowly more people, especially athletes, are going to truly think that mental health does matter and that’s the whole goal. We get to raise money and get to do something fun in the process.” 

In a student-athlete mental well-being study conducted by the NCAA in 2022, it was determined that “38 percent of those in women’s sports and 22 percent of the men’s sports participants reported feeling mentally exhausted constantly or most every day, the most common concern reported.” 

Collegiate athletes worldwide struggle with mental health concerns, but results from studies like these are promising compared to numbers before and during the pandemic. Statistics where athletes reported feeling “hopeless” or “lonely” are decreasing.  

Players on the women’s basketball team emphasized the importance of destigmatizing mental health following the game against MIT. Rather than approaching sports as a pressure-filled job or commitment, players explained that sports should be used as an outlet to de-stress, enjoy, and spend time with peers. 

Senior guard Olivia Deslauriers knows that when her college basketball career is over, the impact playing a sport has had on her mental health echoes far beyond personal accolades or the number of games she has won.  

“I get to play basketball almost every day with a team that feels like a family at this point,” Deslauriers said in an interview with The Beacon. “Whatever I have going on in my life, I know that I can turn to basketball, which has always been a constant for me. Everything goes away when I step out onto the court, and I could not be more appreciative for all the life lessons this game has taught me.” 

The Lions went on to beat Mt. Holyoke College 84-33 on Senior Day on Saturday, Feb. 3. The Women’s Basketball team takes on Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Feb. 7 for their next NEWMAC matchup.  

The close-to-$2,000 donation that the Emerson Basketball Program donated to Doc Wayne will help cover mental health sports therapy sessions for young children. One therapy session comes out to around $50, so Emerson helped to cover almost 40 sessions overall. 

This year, the Emerson women’s basketball team made the “Mental Health Matters” t-shirts available to have customizable sports in the background of the t-shirts. This ensured all athletics programs at the college could buy the shirts and represent their sport. 

Emerson Basketball’s collaboration with Doc Wayne boils down to one goal: “Slowly but surely, the world would truly believe it—that mental health matters.”

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