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Former ESU Basketball Player Finds a Purpose Outside of Athletics.

Magdelynn Wigoda grew up in Minersville, Pennsylvania- a town known for breeding some of the best athletes, as well as an abundance of suicides. Two facts that may not seem all that related, but with the recent increase of suicides amongst NCAA athletes, the question of correlation remains. Growing up, Wigoda was involved in basketball, softball, soccer, and volleyball. Often, sports would coincide during the season, meaning Wigoda was constantly traveling from one sport to the next. The various expectations deriving from different coaches and teams, combined with pure exhaustion became a vicious mental cycle. One so detrimental that anxiety became ingrained within her daily schedule. Wigoda remembers asking herself many times, “what would people do if I wasn’t here?” She remembers it being an honest question, but one she thanks her lucky stars she never acted upon. The pressures continued throughout high school- as Wigoda continued to succeed on the court, she recollects the success attributing to more stress. A 2018 graduate, Wigoda can recall a classmate completing suicide in 2017: “he was an athlete, and the most bubbly person, so no one would have ever expected him to complete suicide.” Alumni from Wigoda’s school; most specifically this past year’s senior class have united under an organization named “Aevidum” which means, “I’ve got your back” in Latin to raise awareness in regards to suicide.

Playing basketball collegiately for East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, Wigoda was a vocal small forward that really prided herself on rebounding for her teammates to hit the open shot. After tearing her ACL and part of her medial meniscus during a practice before her exhibition game, Wigoda was devastated. Losing her senior season and her “chance to make a name for herself”, she exclaimed that she found herself lost. Until this injury, she had only found her identity within the word “athlete”. Regardless, Wigoda found a way to make a name for herself while still being active in the athletic world.

Wigoda found herself becoming involved with Hidden Opponent: a non-profit created by Victoria Garrick, a former D1 athlete who began by sharing her story via Ted Talk regarding battling depression and anxiety while being a student-athlete. The core tenets of Hidden Opponent are: educate, support, and advocate. The values and goals within this non-profit resonated with Wigoda, so she decided to apply to join. As the official president of the Hidden Opponent Club at ESU, Wigoda is working to provide mental health supports all around campus. “My goal is for every team to have at least one, but hopefully two representatives that act as supports. Additionally, I would like to see all teams have their own mental health awareness games. This is crucial in bringing recognition to the struggles that many student-athletes face, and for those struggling to know they are not alone.” Not only has Hidden Opponent allowed her to remain close to the game she loves, she has gained a platform to advocate for mental health in a way that was not possible before. Wigoda found that she can connect with athletes in a much deeper, more meaningful way. While this may seem small, connections such as these often make the difference for those battling the day to day fights with anxiety and depression. Wigoda’s efforts have not gone unnoticed; in September, Wigoda will be the moderator of a Zoom call with Victoria Garrick. She exclaimed that she “hopes to get as many student-athletes to come as possible. Options will be a live, in person Zoom meeting, or the ability to join on one’s personal Zoom if they cannot attend in person.” Wigoda will graduate in 2024 with a masters in speech pathology, and is looking to use this time moving forward to better herself.

“I want to start living in the moment and enjoying life more. You can’t go back in time, but I think if I just enjoyed what I was doing a bit more and did not put so much pressure on myself, I would have been happier.” She hopes to remain with Hidden Opponent in some capacity once she graduates, but is excited to see how the club flourishes at ESU. Wigoda found the ability to make a difference on a much larger scale. One that will continue to provide a positive platform for student-athletes to help combat the stigma of depression and anxiety for years to come. As for making a name for herself, she may be on track to be on the next podcast with Victoria Garrick.

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Maggie has been a mentor to my daughters and has made an incredible impact on both of them. She is a huge asset to our local community. She took time over the summer to speak to our girls soccer team about dealing with stress, anxiety, and ways to get help and overcome tough times. This was one of the most memorable seasons we had and Maggie played a huge part in that!! We are blessed to have her in our lives!!

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