Over the past few years, national headlines have highlighted a critical lack of support and awareness for student-athlete mental health. In response to a push for additional resources across all NCAA sports, The Hidden Opponent, a nonprofit and advocacy group dedicated to raising awareness about student-athlete mental health, has opened up chapters on over 750 college campuses, including Brandeis.

The Hidden Opponent is a national organization, founded by Victoria Garrick, a former volleyball player for the University of Southern California. THO provides individual chapters with panels, information on how to start their clubs and other educational resources for student leaders. Garrick gave a TED Talk in 2017 titled “Mental Health in Athletes: The Hidden Opponent” and afterwards founded THO.

Dominique Paglia ’25, a member of the women’s soccer team and Lexi Kaufman ’24, a member of the women’s swim and dive team serve as THO campus captains for Brandeis student athletes. Paglia heard about the opportunity from a teammate who graduated from Brandeis and applied for the role, and Kaufman followed the founder of THO on Instagram, who was promoting the opportunity to apply to be a campus captain. The two report to and collaborate with other campus captains from fellow University Athletic Association schools. 

The club recently elected an e-board and is currently seeking chartered status in order to expand and host events. Monthly meetings began in September, and the e-board has many goals for the future of the club. Paglia noted that becoming chartered and recruiting members have been the Brandeis chapter’s biggest challenges. Once they find their footing, Paglia hopes to hold a seasonal awareness game along with host events about bouncing back after injuries, external pressures, navigating relationships with coaches, and post-college life for student-athletes. 

Because THO is the only Brandeis organization that provides mental-health services and counseling to student athletes, going forward Paglia is hoping to promote THO across campus and inspire other students to apply to the group. Advocacy is one of the group’s primary goals and principles, and it is exciting to see how this group helps student-athletes at Brandeis.