UI’s sports psychologist sees positive first year


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For more than a year, Iowa’s Athletics Department has housed its very own counseling and sports psychologist, tasked with serving the Hawkeye athletes: Kelli Moran-Miller.

The UI Presidential Committee on Athletics heard an update at Thursday’s meeting, and officials were pleased with her work so far.

“The response to Kelli … has been very positive,” Athletics Director Gary Barta said at the meeting. “The coaches and student-athletes have given a lot of positive feedback.”

Moran-Miller — whom the UI hired in July 2011 — saw roughly 20 percent of the student-athlete population last semester. Her annual salary is $57,345.31.

The top three reasons were related to mental health: Student-athletes reported depressive symptoms, stress and anxiety problems, and relationship problems —which include everything from romance to peer and family relationships.

Moran-Miller said she believes this is quite normal.

“I think that definitely mirrors what you would see over at [the University Counseling Service],” she said in her presentation at the meeting.

The other common reason students come to her is for performance issues.

For the most part, Moran-Miller meets with students individually, and she also works to reduce the stigma around mental health.

“A lot of what I do, in addition to meeting individually, is relationship building,” she said in her presentation. “A lot of helping to break down and reduce that stigma.”

UI freshman rower Betsy Lawson saw Moran-Miller for eating problems this year.

“I just walked in, and she was so nice and welcoming,” she said. “She really helped me get over the hump of my eating problems.”

Officials hired Moran-Miller to focus specifically on student-athletes.

“We went for a long period of time where we had the sports-medicine center, and the University Hospital, and Student Health covering the physical aspects of student health, but we didn’t have any internal resource to deal with potential mental-health concerns,” said N. William Hines, the head of the Athletics Committee.

After 15 months, Hines believes having a full-time psychologist dedicated to the student-athletes has greatly increased the university’s ability to help its student-athletes.

“The student-athletes know that if they have a need, if they are feeling depressed or have some particular psychological issue they really need to work through, they will know that there is someone that it is there for them who is primarily dedicated to their service,” Hines said. “That’s a big deal.”

For students, that Moran-Miller is immersed in athletics is a big deal to them.

“Our sport is a big part of our lives,” said freshman rower Brianna Achs. “I wouldn’t go talk to [another school] psychologist because they wouldn’t know what we are going through. She is there, she knows our coaches, she knows what we are going through.”

The coaches are grateful to be able to refer students to a professional.

“I know at times as a coach, we will try to be a sounding board and give feedback, but there’s sometimes as coaches where you want them to be able to speak with somebody for whom it’s their area of expertise — to give them another way to help them succeed,” said Ron Rainey, the Hawkeye soccer coach.

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