Sports

Photograph by Gordon Schmidt

Rachel Turk’s warm demeanor, her comfortable Robins Center office, and the positive affirmations on Post-it notes stuck to her wall are all very fitting for her role. And given that she’s Richmond’s first full-time sports psychologist, her history as a former student-athlete — she played volleyball at Lynchburg College — is just as appropriate.

“I think in the athletics world in general, there’s some credibility that comes with being an athlete, even though a lot of the things that we do, like in individual sessions, any mental health provider could be doing,” said Turk, who works closely with her colleagues in UR’s Counseling and Psychological Services. “But once you’ve been a college athlete, students look at you and say, ‘You understand what I’m going through because you’ve been there.’”

Turk, who arrived on campus in August, meets with Spider student-athletes, coaches, and athletics staff — individually or for presentations on topics such as performance anxiety or identifying issues students are experiencing.

“The excitement that the athletes have, but also the coaches, about having a position like this has been very different than anything I’ve heard about and felt at other places, which has been really cool,” Turk said. “There’s much less of a stigma here, I have noticed in our student-athletes, with talking about mental health.”