The Importance of Mental Health Among Athletes: An Interview With Hunter Cantwell

By: Nicholas Winter

Mental health has become a significant topic of discussion not only in the sports world, but in every respect, as more and more we have come to realize that being mentally healthy is vital to our daily lives. Hunter Cantwell is a freshman athlete on the rowing team at The Catholic University of America; in high school, he didn’t envision himself being a college rower. Hunter was a skilled baseball player, who was getting better as he continued through his high school career. Things changed in his junior year of high school, when his long-time baseball coach was unable to continue to coach his team. In relief, an assistant coach, who was swayed by the influence of players’ parents and their “contributions” to the program, entered Hunter’s life. I was able to sit down with Hunter and discuss his struggles and how it changed his college path. 

  1. What was the most significant factor that led to you struggling throughout your senior year of high school?
    1. During the spring semester of my senior year, I had a really close friend of mine who passed away on April 12, 2021. Her name was Gabby Meixell, she was an athlete herself as a field hockey player. Throughout our years together in high school she was one of my best friends, and when she passed I pretty much went into a total breakdown that day.
  2. How did your experience with your coach and the baseball program impact your college career?
    1. I wanted to play baseball here at Catholic University, but after not playing for the entirety of the season, I started losing the love for the game that I once had. After receiving an offer from Alex Kincaid, the head coach of the rowing team, I was on board to try something new and different in my college years and possibly beyond.
  3. What motivated you into wanting to educate people on this important topic?
    1. In October 2005, my cousin Kyle Ambrogi passed from suicide. Kyle at the time was a senior football player at The University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, and he became a star in Philadelphia for his football talent. He was struggling with mental health issues at the time and it was too much. After his death, his mother, Donna Ambrogi, created the Kyle Ambrogi Foundation, which not only raised awareness for mental health but also raised money for an annual scholarship at St. Joe’s Prep in Kyle’s name. 
  4. You and I have talked about you getting involved with [The Hidden Opponent], which is a leadership group focused around mental health; how will you use your own experiences to spread the message about the importance of mental health? 
    1. The Hidden Opponent is an organization which helps collegiate athletes coping with mental health issues. The main reason that I wanted to join the organization was to spread the messages that I have heard of the past and live on to tell the story of Gabby and Kyle.

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