Next Play Sports Making Steps to Better Athlete Well-Being


Not until recently have issues about athletes’ mental health been discussed and brought to awareness.  CB South Next Play Sports is a club that has made efforts to end the stigma around athlete mental health by discussing the struggles student-athletes face. The goal of this club is to help people with their anxiety while building their confidence.

Juniors Brooke Hall, Brooke Commins, Bella Smouse, Erin Burke, and Kila Kienzle began CB South Next Play Sports in December of 2022. Brooke Hall said, “CB East had the same club, which inspired us to bring it to South.”

The leaders of this club all participate in soccer at CB South. Kila Kienzle said they are dedicated to spreading Next Play’s message to the soccer team and other South sports teams. As co-leaders, they help organize events and meetings to raise awareness about student-athlete mental health.

The overall message behind the club is Morgan’s Message. According to the Morgan’s Message website, “Morgan’s Message strives to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health within the student-athlete community and equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics.”

Morgan played lacrosse at Duke and died by suicide at the age of 22, a result of her battle with mental health. After a career-shattering knee injury, Morgan underwent surgery and received intensive rehabilitative treatment. “Morgan struggled with this abrupt change because she felt she had lost control within her life,” as shared on the site. This struggle is what ended her life.

With all the five co-leaders being student athletes, Brooke Commins said, “We understand the pressure.” Because the strain of juggling academics and athletics is familiar to them, they can come up with ideas to better the club and advocate for others to join.

This was the main motivation for starting CB South Next Play and why the co-leaders have made efforts to share Morgan’s Message with other student-athletes. They wanted to extend help to athletes at CB South and “end the stigma around student-athlete mental health,” said Brooke Hall.

Since the club’s establishment six months ago, the co-leaders have organized events to begin spreading awareness. They have hosted dedication games for CB South’s girls’ lacrosse team, softball team, basketball team, and unified track team, said Erin Burke. Brooke Commins said that at the dedication games, all student-athletes participating in the games wear teal, the color of Morgan’s Message.

Brooke Commins stated that the co-leaders then speak during half-time to talk about Morgan’s Message and what needs to be done to normalize student-athletes struggling with their mental health. In doing so, Brooke Hall and Brooke Commins hope that they can guide student-athletes to reach out for help if they are struggling.

The co-leaders have also organized bake sales where they sell baked goods and send the profits to the organization behind Morgan’s Message. Brooke Hall said the co-leaders “make PowerPoints and set up fundraising” as well.

Erin spoke at the first dedication game, which was girls’ basketball. She described Morgan’s Message and how it is applied in their club. Players on the team, such as Casey Balkir, said that their support meant a lot to their team.

CB South Next Play sold bracelets and soft pretzels during half-time as well to fundraise. Kila said, “The turnout was good. A lot of people bought the bracelets, which is another way to spread the word”.

Morgan’s Message is associated with a butterfly, symbolizing the mental health of athletes. Stickers of this butterfly were also sold at the stand, where Kila Kienzle and Casey Balkir both put them on their phone cases. The butterfly is a constant reminder of the message of Next Play.

Through CB South Next Play’s Instagram (@cbsnextplay) and the app Remind, the co-leaders share information on upcoming events members can participate in or come view and share updates on meetings.

Brooke Hall encourages student-athletes to join Next Play for a community where “you don’t have to fight alone.”

“Student-athlete mental health isn’t as talked about as student-athlete physical health,” says Brooke Hall, but “there are always people to talk to.”

The co-leaders hope to help any athletes who may be struggling. Brooke Commins said, “We want to reach as many people and educate as many people as we can and support Morgan’s Message.”