Pressure affects all athletes. The pressures to succeed, win, and set an example are magnified for division one athletes. Student-athletes are balancing their academic course loads and athletic engagements (some argue that certain division one athletes get out of academic assignments, but that is a discussion for another time). It mentally can weigh down a young athlete. MSU has implemented the use of a sports psychologist to assist their coaches and athletes throughout their grueling seasons.
Professor Lionel Rosen of MSU's Psychiatry department has been called to aid the Spartan athletes and coaches during these stressful times. Rosen has been an MSU professor since 1970. Rosen is frequently visited by the Spartan football team. This year MSU was predicted to be a Rose Bowl contender. The Spartans now find themselves sitting at a mediocre 5-5 record. They had lofty expectations and are now just looking to salvage the season with a bowl bid and win.
Junior quarterback and first year starter Andrew Maxwell has praised Rosen in aiding him and his teammates during this tumultuous season. Maxwell has received much criticism and flack after taking over for Kirk Cousins. By no means is it easy to replace a leader like Cousins. Being the starting quarterback of a Big Ten team comes with a lot of responsibility. Although he has not performed as well as expected, Maxwell has been productive at times. To keep his sanity and not crack under the pressure he seeks the help of Rosen. Maxwell had this to say in an interview with the Detroit Free Press:
"I've met with him (Rosen) numerous times. I know a lot of players on our team have met with him numerous times. He just brings a different perspective, because he's not in the program everyday, and he's able to look at it from an outside perspective and a more cerebral perspective and put things in a way you've never thought about before."
It is beyond beneficial for a team like the Spartans to have a Psychologist like Rosen. It is deflating and demoralizing to not live up to outside expectations, however justification and support is offered from a psychologist. People will look for areas of blame, but someone like Rosen can help players realize their own mistakes from a different angle. At the end of the day, all athletes are people like you and me. They have feelings and those can effect how they practice and play.
From a recruiting standpoint, this is a source of leverage for MSU. The recruitment process tends to be a family decision. Families want to ensure that their child will be loved and cared as they were at home. An athletes collegiate team becomes their new family. It is hard enough to detach yourself from home and relationships you built up to the point of recruitment. By offering a team psychologist, MSU offers a security blanket for blossoming athletes to turn to.
All sports are multi-faceted when it comes to emotion. Without emotion sports lack purpose. Athletes are filled with joy, anger, grief, and desire. A sports psychologist like Rosen can channel the needed emotions for success on and off the field. In the case of collegiate athletes, fans need to understand that they have the same emotions any other 18 to 22 year old would have. Imagine those emotions being magnified and sometimes patronized due to the pressures of playing for a major division one program.
Everyone needs an outlet, and every school should cherish their athletes. They are major investments that solidify and exemplify major learning institutions (a majority of a school's standing is based on the regular student body... they deserve proper care and attention from the university as well). It is only beneficial to have a team psychologist. If the funds are in line, a school should take the time to invest in a team psychologist. Michigan State has led the way and has once again shown that they are a world class institution of higher learning.