Struggles now behind her, YCP athlete becomes someone who ‘radiates positivity and confidence’

Editor’s note: This is one of a group of stories from students in Professor Michael Mudrick’s class and as part of a project celebrating Division 3 athletes.

By: Blake Stewart

EVERYTHING was going great for Bri McKeown in her first year of collegiate softball leading up to the season. Academically, she started off strong in the classroom. On the field expectations were also relatively high for the Avon Grove native.

Suddenly, however, she began to experience something different. She couldn’t put a finger on it, but it involved a lack of desire. In the classroom and athletically, it seemed like a bout with apathy. To make matters worse, symptoms continued to get worse and worse as time went on.

This certainly was something new for the Spartans’ third baseman. Unfortunately, McKeown found herself struggling mentally. She decided to take some time away from the team to focus on strengthening and improving her mental health.

“I was watching the live streams of my team playing and that made me very upset,” McKeown said. “I could go to a couple games, but I only went to like two or three. That just made me upset because it was like my team playing without me and I had to watch from the sidelines.”

McKeown would look to her family, friends, and coaches for support. Fortunately, these people
supported her the whole way through. “My mom was there for me throughout the diagnosis, and went to every doctor’s visit with me,” McKeown said. Over time, from doctor’s visits to talking with the people around her, she has made great strides of growth within herself. McKeown has left an impact on others that makes her a role model in their eyes.

One of McKeown’s best friends, Eleanor Beck, talked about the growth she has seen with her mental health and what makes her unique.

The York College chapter of Morgan’s Message was founded by Morgan Joyce, left, and Bri McKeown in the fall of 2022 and after it was founded nationally two years before that.

“It’s been amazing to see her become the person she is today,” Beck said. “Bri is someone who works extremely hard, she’s kind, and wants to be an outlet for people. That’s what makes her unique, where she will be there for you and always make sure you are doing OK.”

McKeown was able to learn a lot from dealing with her mental health and found some valuable skills to help improve it. She learned and believes that your mental health is very important and should be taken more seriously. McKeown used Morgan’s Message to help overcome her mental health. That’s when she knew she was making progress where she felt comfortable talking to others about their mental health struggles. Talking to others shows progress and it’s a huge factor when it comes to college athletes where they have so much stress from all different directions.

“Your mental health is just as important as your physical health and should take priority over a lot of things and I just don’t think that athletes believe this in this day and age,” McKeown said. “I think it’s been pushed to the side a lot and needs to be brought out more.”

McKeown’s teammate Alyssa Harhigh spoke about seeing her growth on and off the field.

“She carries herself in a way that radiates positivity and confidence and it has a way of impacting those around her,” Harhigh said. “She has become someone who naturally helps her friends, teammates and classmates etc. improve their mental health just by the simplest of words and actions. ” “In my opinion, before anyone has the ability to do that, they have to first take a step back and develop their own sense of self and mental wellness, which is something I admire that she was able to do for herself.”

It’s been amazing to see her become the person she is today,

Eleanor Beck, a friend

McKeown has played an active role with her experiences of mental health by helping bring Morgan’s Message Foundation to York College, where it’s a place for student athletes to go when they’re struggling with mental health. Student athletes share stories about what they are going through and have people there to help them with steps to improve. Morgan’s Message has had a great impact, which led to Morgan Joyce helping with Morgan’s Message being brought to YCP. Both of them gave opportunities for student athletes here at YCP to make a difference in mental health. McKeown gave a key benefit about the benefit of Morgan’s Message.

“There are so many outlets through this program,” McKeown said. “I wanted to bring it to York because we didn’t have it here.”

With everything that McKeown has learned from dealing with mental health and being one of the leaders for Morgan’s Message, she has insightful advice for student athletes.

“One of the biggest things is you’re not struggling alone, there are so many people around you who support you,” said McKeown. “There are so many great resources, especially here at York and many other schools, but there is a community of people out there that want to help you.”

McKeown certainly hopes that the worst is behind her now. With her pursuing a major in nursing, she can help translate that with providing support to others. McKeown is looking forward to graduating college with a degree in nursing with aspirations of either working as a labor and delivery nurse, working in psychology, anesthesiology unit, or something with sports medicine. But currently, her top choice is labor and delivery units.

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