PhD Grad studies heartache black college athletes face as sport ends

Thanks to his research, a Mercer University The PhD graduate hopes to raise awareness of the grief that black college athletes – especially Black Division I college football players – face after their athletic careers end and help improve their overall well-being.

Dr Marlon Williams, a Double Bear, just completed his PhD in Counselor Training and Supervision of the College of Professional Advancement (COPA) and obtained his Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in December 2016.

“He was perhaps the most unique and impressive student I have had in my entire teaching career,” said Dr. Don Redmond, COPA Associate Professor of Counseling and Founding Director of the College. Storytelling Center. “Once Marlon is introduced to a new idea or experience, he absorbs it and uses it in exceptional, creative and deeply personal ways.

Dr Williams already has extensive experience in education, with much of his work related to prevention interventions against drugs, violence, bullying and gang activity. He helped run an addiction intervention program for middle and high school students in the DeKalb County School District; worked with non-custodial fathers and low income first generation students as an educational program specialist and program coordinator at Georgia State University; and focused on student attendance, discipline, grades and interventions at Ronald E. McNair Middle School in Decatur.

Since 2014, Dr Williams has been responsible for the discipline, culture and school climate at Flat Shoals Elementary School in DeKalb County as a Student Support Specialist.

“I have had a truly fulfilling and successful career in education, but I had a desire to follow my passion and give back to a people and sport that I am very passionate about. This sport is football, and I have always had an interest in helping people, ”he said.

Through his personal experiences and by guiding young students through the challenges, he recognized the need for more support for athletes during their transition in life. Mr. Williams received his undergraduate degree in business administration from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he also played football. As an outside linebacker, he had been a starter for four years and played for the 1990 national championship team.

“When I was done playing football there were things I could have used to help me feel like my career was over and adjust to life without sports. I also saw what a lot of my teammates were going through. I wanted to go back to school and learn more about how to tackle these challenges holistically, ”he said.

Sports counseling offered the holistic approach that Dr. Williams was looking for and would allow him to help athletes perform well not only academically and athletically, but in the chapters following their athletic career. On his first night of class at Mercer, he knew he had chosen the right master’s program as well as the right university.

“While I was at Mercer learning the theories and the different challenges people face, I really understood that grief was what I was going through when my football career was over,” he said. -he declares. “I wanted to know if it was just me or if other people felt the same.”

Dr. Williams received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Clinical and Mental Health Counseling, which earned him automatic admission to the PhD. program. As he started working on his thesis, he decided to conduct a qualitative research study and use narrative theory, based on the concept that people are storytellers who make sense of their lives and connect. to others through stories.

“I felt like instead of doing a quantitative study, I wanted to do a study that really captured the richness of these stories and narratives. It was a good decision because when talking to the participants it was amazing the things that were revealed, ”he said.

He was first introduced to narrative theory and narrative therapy during a 2015 study abroad trip to Europe with the Center for the Study of Narrative. The concepts really resonated with him as he has been telling his own stories through poetry since the age of 14. Dr Williams recently presented the main lecture of the Centre’s seventh annual narrative showcase.

“Marlon took the theoretical foundation of his introduction to narrative theory in his doctoral work by incorporating this interdisciplinary approach throughout his advanced courses, culminating with him combining qualitative research, narrative theory, narrative therapy and the psychological impacts of grief. black soccer players in transition. outside of sport in a thesis which I believe will become a fundamental study, ”said Dr Redmon.

Dr Williams interviewed 10 former black Division I college football players between the ages of 29 and 50 from across the country. All have experienced grief unrelated to grief for at least six months and some for as long as 20 years. The loss of their careers, social network and identity all contributed to the burden they felt, and many had no one to talk to about what they were going through.

Dr Williams, who has published two books of poetry, is currently working on a book that links his personal experiences as a college athlete to the results of his study. He hopes to complete a quantitative study to see how widespread grief is among former black college football players across the country and later conduct the study with former athletes in other sports.

He wants to help all athletes get the most out of their lives after the end of their athletic career and empower mental health practitioners, coaches and families to better understand what athletes go through and how to overcome challenges. This is an opportunity to improve the results and well-being of athletes in general, as whole, healthy athletes are the most consistent.

“I want to empower other counselors and do research for something that benefits us as a counseling community and country,” said Dr Williams, who teaches social and cultural issues in counseling as an assistant professor at Mercer this summer. “With depression, anxiety and loneliness increasing among students because of everything that is going on right now, I want to help not only athletes, but also students and people in general.”

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