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The Athletics department is making huge strides in athlete development and preparation.

In light of the cancellation of fall sports, IUP athletics has worked to provide programming for student athletes to keep them motivated and engaged. Through this, they have started a five-part speaker series that kicked off Oct. 6.

The first speaker was Dr. Logan Edwards. He is a professor, program coordinator and athletic assistant though the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. His roles have allowed him to work with student athletes both in competition and academics.

Most of what he talked about was mental health and wellness during these trying times. Edwards covered a sense of lost identity and finding your self-worth outside of athletics. His words of encouragement not only applied to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also life after college.

IUP Athletic Director Todd Garzarelli said, “The feedback that we got back was incredible. Dr. Edwards did an excellent job, and our student athletes were able to utilize many of the tips and tools that he provided during his presentation.”

This evaluation was supported by IUP swimmer, Paige Mikesell (junior, health and physical education).

“I really liked the way that Dr. Edwards approached the topic of mental health,” Mikesell said. “Mental health is so important, and I do not think that it is talked about enough. So, it was nice to see our athletics program taking that extra step to have this speaker for its student-athletes.

“I think that a lot of athletes, including myself, struggle with their mental health everyday but are too scared to do anything about it or simply do not know what to do about it. Dr. Edwards was able to introduce mental health as well as ways that we can cope with everything that is going on in the world today, which I believe was very beneficial.”

The speaker series will dive into more topics than just mental health as they move forward. The next speaker will be Dave Reed. He graduated from IUP and proceeded to hold roles as a state representative and majority house leader. The talk will be focused on voting and its importance as we approach the 2020 presidential election.

“With the push for young voting to be involved and the sense of urgency to vote, we wanted to make sure we provided our student-athletes with an educational platform to understand what both parties stand for, how it will affect them as individuals and how they can actually register to vote, where to go to vote,” Garzarelli said. “It is important to not to just ask are youth to vote but to also provide them with the education on how they can make a difference and actually how to vote.”

After Reed, there will be three more speakers in the series. The next being author and motivational speaker John Gordon. He will address leadership and culture. He will look to inspire students to focus on first winning in the locker room before taking the field.

This is a great opportunity for both IUP athletes and the university to really help spread awareness to the student athlete that could prove helpful to them in their futures.

In a continually changing world, athletes are now being faced with more pressure than ever, and it is paramount that programs like these are used to help prepare athletes for what may lie ahead for them.

Garzarelli and the department understands this, and he echoed these feelings in a statement to IUP Athletics.

“We are very proud to announce this speaker series and provide a unique way for our student-athletes to continue to engage in a positive atmosphere in the current climate,” said Garzarelli.

“As we adapt to these ever-changing times, it is critical for our department to provide our student-athletes additional tools to be successful.”

With one down and two scheduled, it will be intriguing to see what Garzarelli and IUP athletics have in store for the remainder of the series. However, one thing is for sure.

This is giving student athletes a wonderful opportunity to grow as individuals both in and out of competition through education, knowledge and experience.

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