Student-Athlete Mental Health and Performance

Student-Athlete Mental Health and Performance

Mission Statement

The Student-Athlete Mental Health and Performance Team is designed to facilitate the growth and development of Vanderbilt University student-athletes as individuals, students, and athletes. We help individuals develop psychological and emotional awareness and intelligence. We also help student-athletes learn how to manage the adversity they face within their athletic, academic, and personal lives. When mental health concerns arise, we are here to treat and care for those needs in a manner that is specific to the individual. The Mental Health and Performance Team also teaches athletes and teams how to develop, train, and implement mental skills, strategies, and techniques that are used to enhance performance during training and competition.

This mission is accomplished through sport performance consultations, individual therapy, focus groups, team workshops, and a variety of trainings and activities that address the mental health needs and sport performance desires that are specific to VU student-athletes. We appreciate the unique stressors VU student-athletes face and we are here to support, encourage, and guide our student-athletes as they strive to maximize their abilities in each area of their lives. This support honors VU student-athletes intersecting identities and uses a multiculturally-informed framework. In addition to supporting our student-athletes, our team provides training and consultations for coaches and other athletics staff members seeking to support a student-athlete experiencing a mental health concern and/or athletic performance need.


Tim White, PhD, CMPC – When I work with student-athletes and other clients, I adopt your goals as if they are my own. Whether you are pursuing excellence in your sport, in the classroom, or in other domains of life, I diligently support, encourage, and guide you toward the vision you have for your life. This process often involves developing a deeper understanding of your concerns as well as learning mental skills you can use to manage your challenges more effectively.

Dr. Tim White spent the first portion of his career working for various professional and collegiate sports teams as an athletic trainer (aka sports medicine). Observing the mental toll injuries, surgery, and lengthy rehab programs had on those athletes led him to change careers. In his new role as a sport psychologist, he enjoys helping student-athletes enhance their athletic performance as well as address any of their mental health needs. Often times, these two areas overlap with each other.

Tim enjoys getting know a wide variety of people and working with a broad range of concerns. He loves the college setting and watching an athlete move toward their goals is one of the things he enjoys most about his work. Some areas he likes to focus on include: the mind-body connection, enhancing athletic performance, motivation, injuries and the recovery process, identity development, substance abuse, and traumatic experiences. When working with clients, Tim blends together action-oriented and acceptance-based therapies.

Tim completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse where he double majored in athletic training and strength and conditioning. He later earned his master’s in sport psychology at the University of Utah and his PhD in counseling psychology (with an emphasis in sport) from the University of Missouri.

In his free time, Tim enjoys watching and participating in all kinds of sports and outdoor activities. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Danielle, and his two children, Kaelyn and Carter.

Contact Tim via email – Timothy.White@Vanderbilt.Edu – or visit him in 117B McGugin


Sydnee Collins, PhD – I enter every therapeutic relationship with the intent of connecting from a place of authenticity, empathy, and respect. My goal is to provide a judgment-free, collaborative space that guides clients on their journey to holistic peace and wellness.

Dr. Collins earned her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Tennessee State University. She completed her pre-doctoral internship at Oregon State University Counseling and Psychological Services, where her area-of-emphasis was sport psychology. Prior to her graduate work, Dr. Collins earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Morgan State University, where she competed on the tennis team.

Dr. Collins works primarily with the Vanderbilt student-athlete community. She is client-centered in her approach, and informs her work through a social justice lens that explores issues around power and privilege and its impact on mental health. Dr. Collins’ clinical interests include working with student-athletes who hold marginalized identities, athletic/identity development, diversity-based outreach and programming, and end of athletic career transition.

Born and raised in Long Beach, California, Sydnee enjoys movies (especially thriller/horror films), building her plant collection, exploring nature and spending time with her pug, Huey.

Contact Sydnee via email – Sydnee.Collins@Vanderbilt.Edu – or visit her in 117A McGugin


Jillian Balser, LMSW, MPH – Jillian is a liaison to the VU Athletic Department and leads the Eating Disorders Team at the UCC. She previously worked at the Renfrew Center where she served as a Primary Therapist specializing in the treatment of eating disorders and co-occurring conditions. Jillian was a college athlete at DePauw University and has a special interest in student-athlete mental health. She enjoys working with athletes as they navigate stressors associated with school, sport, and wellness. Jillian graduated with master’s degrees in social work and public health from University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Contact Jillian via email – Jillian.C.Balser.1@Vanderbilt.Edu – or visit her in 130K McGugin on Mondays and Tuesdays

Learn More

What is Sport and Performance Psychology?
Sport and performance psychology explores and trains the mental aspects of sport that influence how well an athlete performs.  This often involves the development and implementation of mental skills, strategies, and techniques an athlete can use to enhance their mindset and their athletic performance.

How is sport and performance psychology different from mental health?
Mental health is a term used to describe our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. Although mental health influences our ability to use mental skills and strategies during training and competition, it is a broader concept that relates to our overall health and wellbeing. Sport and performance psychology is more specific to athletics and the ability to manage our mindset. When an athlete uses the skills and strategies they learn through sport and performance psychology, they are able to enhance their athletic performance and achieve greater levels of success.

How do sport and performance psychology and mental health relate to each other?
There is a lot of overlap between sport and performance psychology and mental health. Many of the skills used to enhance performance can be used in everyday life (i.e. academics, relationships, work, communicating with others, etc.). In addition, when an athlete has a positive (or negative) experience within their sport, it influences their sense of mental health and wellbeing. Similarly, a student-athlete’s mental health influences how well they are able to use the mental skills they have developed. Thus, these two areas regularly interact and influence each other. This adds to the importance of addressing both an athlete’s mental skills and strategies as well as their mental, emotional, and social wellbeing.

A note on confidentiality and privacy
The Mental Health and Performance team collaborates with Sports Medicine as part of an integrated healthcare team. As such, there are some instances in which it is appropriate to consult and collaborate with the Sports Medicine staff. When this occurs, only pertinent information is disclosed (e.g. attending appointments, safety of student, etc.).  Information is NOT shared with coaches, strength and conditioning staff, administrators, teammates, or family members, however, if a student-athlete wants these individuals to be aware of their concerns, they may give the Mental Health and Performance team permission to consult with them via verbal consent or a signed release of information. Outside of the instances outlined above, information shared by a student-athlete during Mental Health and Performance appointments is treated as confidential for those 18 years of age or older except in instances where disclosure is required by law (i.e., threat of harm to self/others; court order; abuse or neglect of a child).


Services offered to Vanderbilt Student-Athletes
Our goal is to provide a safe, affirming space that supports student-athletes in their holistic development as students, athletes, and individuals. We provide a variety of services, including:

  • Sport Performance Psychology
    • Building confidence and trusting your abilities
    • Managing expectations and pressure
    • Staying focused and concentrating
    • Self-talk
    • Letting go of mistakes
    • Managing energy levels (relaxing / hyping up)
    • Taking risks (too many or not enough)
    • Performance slumps
    • Maintaining motivation and joy in your sport
    • Recovering from injury
    • Team leadership
    • Team culture
    • Team cohesion / “team chemistry”
    • Communicating with coaches and teammates
  • Mental Health
    • Individual therapy
    • Group therapy / focus groups
    • Anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns
    • Adjusting to college and life away from home
    • Isolation, loneliness, home-sickness
    • Family concerns
    • Relationship issues
    • Academic concerns
    • Identity development
    • Matters of equity, diversity, and inclusion
    • Experiences of trauma / abuse
    • Alcohol and other drug abuse or misuse
    • Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating
    • ADHD/LD Assessments


A note on medications
Psychiatric medications are managed via psychiatric providers within the UCC and VUMC Systems. The Mental Health and Performance Team will help athletes needing these medications connect with the appropriate providers as necessary.


If you need immediate assistance for a mental health crisis / emergency


Making an appointment
Student-athletes can schedule an appointment via the UCC Student Portal, their team athletic trainer, or contacting our staff directly. When using the UCC Student Portal, please confirm that you are scheduling an athletics appointment with one of the providers dedicated to the athletic department.

Coaches / Teams

Vanderbilt athletics coaches and staff are welcome to consult with our staff. We can provide support around a variety of concerns, including: building team culture, managing discord within a team, communication between coaches and athletes, ongoing team-wide performance enhancement sessions, etc.