Championing Sports and Mental Health

Championing Sports and Mental Health

Recent graduate Azalea Prince experienced numerous athletic achievements while at Jessup and gives God all the glory. Recognized as an All-Academic athlete, she earned six career NAIA National Championship appearances in cross country as well as track and field while repeatedly obtaining her spot on the GSAC All-Conference team. After finishing her fourth track and field and cross country seasons with the Warriors, Prince also had a significant impact on campus to provide student athletes better access to mental health.

“It’s important that student athletes’ feelings are validated because there’s definitely an added pressure for athletes. In addition to the demands of being a student, they have to perform in their sport as well.” Prince said. “I’ve faced mental health challenges and know what it’s like to feel misunderstood, so I’m here to advocate for students and direct them to our Care Team. Speaking up is a way to spread awareness and help people heal.” 

Prince didn’t limit herself to running on the course or field, she also actively represented the GSAC as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC). The council is composed of two athletes from each campus and assists with various tasks. This includes overseeing conference issues affecting general student-athlete concerns on campus and within the conference or understanding the legislative process, and NAIA issues specific to a student’s home campus.

As a result of her involvement with SAAC, Prince was later asked to be an ASA representative at the NAIA level in their RISE program. The RISE acronym stands for respect, inclusivity, support and education, and represents a program for its members to participate in training and programming aimed at influencing positive change in the association where all people are valued and provided equal opportunity in all aspects of life. Of note, Prince was one of only two students who have the honor to be part of the 21-member committee.

In her leadership role, Prince had the opportunity to share her thoughts and perspectives on mental health as well as some of the ways that Jessup is helping their student-athletes. “The networking opportunities within RISE were great,” Prince said. “I was asked by the Chair of the RISE committee to be on a podcast where I was able to talk about my passion for mental health.” Her work on that podcast led to another NAIA Lunch and Learn podcast hosted by Jessup’s Director of Student Life, Brandon Farmer and Assistant Athletic Director, Scott Sorgea. 

“I appreciate what Jessup is doing to support our student’s mental health. Our Care Team made the process seamless and I’ve heard lots of positive feedback,” she said. “So many athletes have a hard time because they don’t want their coaches to know they’re struggling. Our anonymous forum also encourages students to reach out for help in addition to resources through our app that allow students to get free therapy.”  

In April, Prince earned her bachelors in kinesiology and has plans to enter her doctoral program in the fall. Throughout her Jessup education, Prince actively represented Jessup athletics in a variety of leadership capacities including as a member of the Athletic Advisory committee, the Council for Student Athletes and the Diversity, Reconciliation, and Unity (DRU) committee. She’s also an ambassador for a nonprofit called “Running in Silence,” an organization striving to break the stigma around eating disorders and runner athletes.

“Being a part of Jessup athletics has meant the world to me and I couldn’t imagine my life without the people I’ve met at Jessup.” she said. “The Lord has opened amazing doors for me to compete and I’ve met so many people who genuinely care about me as an athlete and student.”