At the end of the summer, DeRoos returned to Long Beach with an idea. Not just for her, but one that could be shared with her friends and teammates in Long Beach State’s beach volleyball program.
That’s when DeRoos, along with teammates Katie Kennedy and Leah Black, decided to start Snacks for the Soul. Their plan was relatively simple: Host a weekly get-together for women athletes at Long Beach State, allowing them to congregate at a local park for yoga, meditation, journaling, deep conversation, and (of course) snacks.
“I was just kind of sitting around with the idea of creating an intentional place to rest and find solace outside of the expectations of my sport, school and social life,” explained DeRoos, a junior psychology student. sports at the CSULB. “I didn’t really know how to deal with these difficult emotions while balancing the stress of school and my personal life, so I wanted to create a space where people could feel safe and rested.”
When DeRoos first arrived in Long Beach from her hometown of Carlsbad, she says it was a difficult adjustment to life as a college athlete. She took time off from volleyball her first year, which gave her more time to acclimate to her new surroundings, but when she started playing regularly in her second year, she felt the stress start to mount.
“I think back to the high school version of Christine, who just had sparkly eyes and a bushy tail, so happy to be going to college, right? The best years of my life,” she recalls. “And then I get here and it’s a slap in the face realizing that I’m balancing a million different things, and I want to be successful in everything… My freshman and sophomore years were just like one hurdle after another trying to figure out the rhythm of everything and how to stay a good human who also strives for excellence in his craft. I think the learning curve was really steep for me.
Since September, just after the start of the fall semester, DeRoos and athletes from various other teams have met every Tuesday, taking an hour out of their week to connect, relax and discuss the various challenges they face.
“The pandemic and COVID have been really hard on everyone, and I think that’s really come out in the last few years in the mental health of college athletes,” said Rachael Kowalchick, a junior on the women’s water team. -polo. “There’s just a ton of pressure and we don’t realize it because we’re isolated in our own little bubbles. Snacks for the Soul is an outlet for us. We can take a break, meet and share our experiences. We can lean on each other and support each other.
Katie Kennedy, a senior women’s beach volleyball and indoor volleyball team, used Snacks for the Soul as an independent study project while pursuing her master’s degree in sports psychology.
“I think the most rewarding thing was finding that sense of community,” Kennedy said. “We all come together and relate to each other and we can let go of some things. Then we use yoga, breathwork and mindfulness as a way to recover and distract ourselves from it all and just have a sense of calm and relaxation.
Throughout the experience, Kennedy wrote reflective papers for graduate school, and she noticed how Snacks for the Soul had benefited her in the field. Having a scheduled time each week set aside for rest and recovery has led to a better spirit on the pitch.
“It resets you and refreshes your mental state, because when you do the same thing every day, you can feel exhausted,” she explained. “When we find moments of joy on those Tuesdays, the next day in training, I feel a little lighter, more refreshed and more grateful. And that’s another activity that we try to do every time, it’s is to express as much gratitude as possible. Yes, it’s hard for student-athletes, it’s a chore, but we are so lucky to be here. We are so grateful to each other and all that that we have received.
That feeling of gratitude has been a common theme at Snacks for the Soul meetings, and the core group hopes to pass that feeling on to more of their teammates and fellow athletes in the athletic department. DeRoos says she was able to get in touch with members of the faculty, as well as some student support staff from the athletic department and the LBSU University Center.
The group also plans to incorporate more diary guests into its meetings for additional personal reflection, and DeRoos says she hopes to have a potluck with all members at the end of each month.
Ultimately, for the athletes who participated, they gained a renewed sense of gratitude for the challenges and pitfalls that come with being a college athlete. In just one hour a week for the past two months, Snacks for the Soul has already had a lasting impact, and DeRoos has a new appreciation for his time in college — and as an athlete — understanding that the two are fleeting.
“I always have to remind myself that it’s so short and I want to enjoy my hard days.” she says. “I have some pretty cool problems, you know?” Waking up at 6 a.m. and lifting weights with my best friends, and hurting from this really rigorous sport, and stretching my mind. I really love my problems, and it’s about having an abundance mindset versus a scarcity mindset.