By Adonia Wade | April 17, 2023
Five of the six T.H.O. campus captains tabling at a UAlbany basketball game to spread awareness for mental health, specifically of athletes.
Photo Credit: The Hidden Opponent
In March 2022 the college athletics community was shaken by the suicide of Katie Meyer, a lively goalkeeper who helped lead Stanford women’s soccer program to a national championship.
In the span of just two months, four more collegiate student-athletes took their own lives, which sparked the long-awaited concern for the mental health of collegiate-athletes around the country.
The Hidden Opponent (T.H.O.) is a non-profit organization that spreads awareness for mental health with a focus on student-athletes. T.H.O. was added to the University at Albany in the Fall of 2022 with the goal of raising awareness for the mental health of student athletes and fighting the stigma surrounding the two.
UAlbany’s chapter of the Hidden Opponent is led by a senior softball player Morgan Petty, a senior on the softball team Schuyler Ossman, a freshman on the track and field team Isaiah Williams, a sophomore lacrosse player Ava Poupard, a fifth-year track and field and cross country athlete Noreen Guilfoyle, and a senior of the softball team Caitlyn Mitros who all are the campus captains of T.H.O. at UAlbany.
“The Hidden Opponent really gears our focus towards being an advocacy group for student-athletes,” Ossman said. "And just kind of shedding light on how student-athletes’ mental health is just as important as physical health.”
T.H.O. shows their support for student-athletes through gestures as small as making ribbons and giving them to all of the athletic teams, letting them know they have a support system, to tabling at games and spreading awareness to the rest of the community on mental health specifically of student-athletes.
“We just don’t really talk about mental health. Not talking about it kind of increases that stigma surrounding it,” Guilfoyle said. “And having the Hidden Opponent where we're not afraid to talk about mental health, we're not afraid to say, ‘hey, we need to do something about this’ really helps break down that stigma and make it easier to talk about it, because if we're talking about it, then somebody’s talking about it, and it makes it okay to talk about.”
While UAlbany’s chapter of the Hidden Opponent is just getting started, they are finding a way to have their voices heard and impacting UAlbany’s campus by creating a sense of community that promotes a positive culture and fighting the mental health stigmas which has created a safer environment not only for the student-athletes’ mental health, but everyone’s. While The Hidden Opponent is geared toward student-athletes, they have events that are open to everyone.
The UAlbany T.H.O. campus captains aim to not only spread awareness for mental health, but also to create change for a better environment for student-athletes’ mental health. They aim to show people that the meaning of an athlete being mentally tough has developed a new meaning.
T.H.O. is not only offering a support system and community for the student-athletes at the University at Albany, but they are also debunking the stigmas surrounding what it means to be mentally tough as an athlete and recultivating it in a positive manner.
“The whole idea of mental toughness and athletes, the definition has changed,” Ossman said. “Back then you powered through everything, but now it’s to have boundaries with yourself and those around you, and to be able to recognize and understand what your body needs to be the best athlete you can be, as well as your mind too.”
As the Hidden Opponent gets more recognition and aims to become a recognized organization as part of the UAlbany Student Association, their goal is to do bigger events that will be open to everyone – where mental health awareness is talked about and services as well as a support group are offered to all students.