Sam Thomas Column

SAM’S CORNER: Advocate for mental health, breaking stigma of not talking about it

Hey Wildcat fans,

This was the second week of official practice and one step closer to gameday.

I hope all of you saw our non-conference schedule come out. Our first exhibition game is this month on the 28th against Eastern New Mexico. Our official season opener is November 9th against Cal State Northridge. I am very excited to get this season started and play in front of the best fans.

This week in practice we worked on a lot of defense. As seen from last year’s team, defense is key to our game and we take pride in getting stops. Since we have a fairly new team, it is a lot of teaching and working on rotations. You will be able to see the progress we’ve made in our first game.


Alongside working on defense, we also did a team scrimmage this week. We brought in referees to go over the new rules for this season. You would be surprised at how many new rules pop up, or rules you never even knew existed.

More importantly than practice updates, this week was Mental Health Awareness Week. As many of you know, I am a big advocate for mental health and breaking the stigma of not talking about it. Every day this week there was an activity to inform student-athletes about mental health to give them a relief in their week from the stress of school and academics. For example, on Thursday there was a yoga class offered in McKale for student-athletes.

My favorite day Wednesday, we had a guest speaker, Victoria Garrick. I have been a fan of hers for years, watching her YouTube videos and following along on her TikTok page. She played volleyball at USC for four years and has been a big advocate for mental health and body positivity. When I heard she was coming to speak I was so excited and knew I had to be there.

When you are able to listen to someone who has been in your shoes and gone through some similar issues as you, it means just a little more to you. As a former athlete she was sharing many stories about worrying about messing up in a game, or worried about sleeping through your alarm, which almost every athlete has been through.

Her talk meant a lot to me and I was so glad I could listen in and get an even better understanding of mental health. One thing she said that stuck out to me is when you need to become a more consistent shooter, you ask a coach to work on your form and get up extra shots. If you are struggling in class, you go to an advisor and they put you in more study halls or tutoring sessions. No one questions or thinks differently of people that go get extra help in those areas.

Victoria then mentioned, why does it feel like when we need help with our mental health and go see a therapist/psychologist, it feels uncomfortable or we try to hide it? It’s important to talk about mental health and change that stigma!

Sam Thomas is a senior leader with Adia Barnes’ program returning for her fifth season in 2021-22 as granted by the NCAA because of last season impacted by COVID-19 protocol. She has agreed to write a weekly column for Her honors at Arizona include:

2021 Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year
2021 CoSIDA First Team Academic All-American
Elite 90 Award Winner
2021 All-Pac-12
2020 All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention
2020 & 2021 Pac-12 All-Defense
2020 & 2021 Pac-12 Winter Academic Honor Roll
2019 CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team
2019 Pac-12 All-Academic First Team
2018 Pac-12 All-Freshman
2018 Arizona Athletics Female Freshman of the Year

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