New faculty athletics representative has been training for the role since her college years

Physical education professor Eva Monsma takes on new role July 1

Physical education professor Eva Monsma’s entire career seems to have led her to the new role she takes on July 1 — faculty athletics representative for the University of South Carolina.

As one of several UofSC representatives at the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference, Monsma will be an advocate for student-athletes and academic integrity.

It is a natural fit considering her Ph.D. in kinesiology focuses on the psychosocial aspects of sport and physical activity.

“Eva’s expertise as a professor in the Department of Physical Education and as an advocate for the health and well-being of college athletes, as well as her knowledge of faculty governance and her experience in campus leadership roles, position her well to represent the interests of our university and its student-athletes,” Interim President Harris Pastides says.

Monsma replaces history and African American Studies professor Valinda Littlefield, who has been the university’s faculty athletics representative for seven years.

“Our athletics department is a very tightly run ship,” Littlefield says. “They're very active in making sure they're doing the right things — following NCAA policies, SEC policies, making sure students understand their rights, but also making sure students have an environment where they're able to learn and be active in sports.”

Monsma says her first order of business will be to focus on student-athlete mental health — not just finding help for those having issues but helping all student-athletes incorporate mental skills into their training regimens and taking it as seriously as any physical piece of their efforts.

“While licensed psychologists who work with athletes most certainly screen for and treat mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and eating disorders, there is another side to the field focusing on educating athletes about their deliberate use of mental training skills,” she says.

That other side of the field is Monsma’s specialty — helping athletes discover factors that can affect their performance and developing skills to stay motivated and confident and keep anxiety in check.

“I’ve provided mental training workshops for athletes and coaches for over 25 years,” she says. “Deliberate use of psychological skills like, goal setting and time management, imagery, self-regulation, mindfulness, relaxation, focusing and self-talk can help circumvent or at least reduce the effects of stress and mental health triggers regardless of the context.

“My research lines focus on psychological skills used by athletes for self-regulation and that are associated with lower incidents of mental health risks.”

I want our student-athletes to know I am looking out for them. 

Eva Monsma

In addition to her academic background, Monsma also has personal experience with college-level athletics, with a slight twist.

“Being from Canada, I grew up as a competitive figure skater and then became head figure skating coach during my freshman year of college and throughout my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph — a small school two hours west of Toronto,” she says. “Even though I was not a collegiate athlete, I get what it’s like to be a student-athlete because I had this unique experience as a student-coach straight out of high school.

“Having National Coaching Certification helped, but a lot of what I did was trial by fire.”

A new element to the student-athlete experience is being allowed to benefit financially from their name, image and likeness (NIL), which includes endorsement contracts for products ranging from clothing to barbecue.

“One of the main roles I will have is facilitating the understanding and oversight of rules including NIL and transgender sport participation, which are currently evolving,” Monsma says. “I want our student-athletes to know I am looking out for them.”  

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