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Rivals on the court, Glenelg and Marriotts Ridge basketball teams partner in support of mental health awareness

Published on: 01/30/2023


Mental health in athletics can be considered a taboo topic. Two Howard County schools are doing their best to change that narrative with a new club.

Glenelg and Marriotts Ridge high schools have introduced Morgan’s Message clubs during the past two school years, and on Monday, during the boys and girls basketball games between the schools, each team will be wearing customized shirts pregame to raise awareness for Morgan’s Message, a nonprofit whose mission is to amplify the mental health of student-athletes through “peer-to-peer conversations and providing a platform for advocacy.” The teams also have planned to share a pregame statement about the organization and mental health awareness, with the girls teams painting banners to hang in the gym.

Morgan Message was started in honor of Morgan Rodgers, a Duke University women’s lacrosse player who died by suicide on July 11, 2019, at the age of 22. Rodgers sustained a knee injury shortly before her sophomore season in January 2017, and during the intensive rehab process while away from the team, her anxiety and depression began to accelerate, according to the organization’s website. She died two years later.

At Marriotts Ridge, each girls sport has dedicated a game to bringing awareness to the importance of mental health in athletics. This year, Glenelg junior guard Maria Garbis has spearheaded the introduction of Morgan’s Message at Glenelg.

Garbis signed up to be an ambassador last spring after finding out about the organization through Instagram. She said Morgan’s Message resonated with her because she has friends in mental health advocacy and wanted to help end the stigma surrounding student-athletes.

“Especially in sports, you have a bad game you go and you ice your knee,” Garbis said. “Your body hurts you work on your body, but there isn’t a lot when you’re dealing with things inside. People, especially in sports are told, ‘You’ve got to be tough.’ I know a lot of my friends, especially in sports, we will have nights where we’ll say, ‘This is so hard’. Just to be able to have an outlet where you know you can get help.

“You can talk to someone and realize, ‘It’s OK to not be OK’. We play sports and everyone expects 100% from us all the time. We go to school from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then we have practice until 6 p.m. or games. It’s a lot mentally and you expect a lot of yourself, so just to have a club and someone to understand what’s going on, validate your feelings at the end of the day.”

She heard back from Morgan’s Message at the beginning of this school year, which set the process for starting the club in motion. An assistant girls soccer coach at Mt. Hebron and the varsity softball coach at Glenelg, Anna Pallozzi, who is also an English teacher, jumped at the opportunity to be the club’s faculty advisor. Pallozzi is keenly aware of the mental health struggles that student-athletes can have.

“My initial interest was as a product of Howard County public schools, being a multi-sport athlete,” Pallozzi said. “My sister was a Division I lacrosse player and having the coaching perspective, seeing first-hand on different levels the pressures that a lot of our student-athletes face and often times internalize in performing well, maintaining their grades and all those things. It was a no-brainer for me to get involved, especially with a growing number of student-athletes at the college level that have committed suicide in the last few years.

“Helping the students at Glenelg form a community and support each other while tackling their own mental health struggles, forming a support system for one another was something I definitely wanted to be involved in.”

Garbis is hopeful that Monday’s partnership will serve as a momentum-building event for the club at Glenelg. At the beginning of December, they held a T-shirt sale in support of Morgan’s Message. Initially concerned that only members of the boys and girls basketball teams would buy the shirts, almost 200 were sold.

Garbis is hopeful Monday’s event will serve as a springboard for future events moving forward. She and other students have discussed the idea of having weekly meetings, also hoping to establish similar mental health awareness games in both girls and boys sports during the spring and fall seasons.

“We’re definitely going to start scheduling some weekly meetings moving forward,” Garbis said. “I have some athletic trainer friends that are willing to come in and talk about mental health and things past that, like your eating patterns, taking care of your body and your mind. Some speakers, videos, to help build a collectively better school and athletic program.”

Author : Jacob Steinberg

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