Iowa Alumni Magazine | June 2015 | People

Playmaker: Kelli Moran-Miller

By IAM Staff

Dawn Bowlus
PHOTO: LeaAnn Randall Henry

Student-athletes not only face the everyday challenges of college life, but also the pressures that come with competitive sports. When Hawkeyes struggle with mental health, stress, or sports performance issues, Kelli Moran-Miller can be a real game-changer.

As director of counseling and sports psychology for the UI athletics department, Moran-Miller stands ready to help students achieve both academic and athletic success. She promises confidentiality for services that often involve coping with depression, anxiety, or relationship problems, but also works with individuals and teams to improve confidence and chemistry on the court.

"Athletics is about more than just winning and losing," says UI Athletic Director Gary Barta, "so we offer these services as part of our commitment to total student-athlete well-being."

Here are some ways that Iowa's sports psychologist supports the whole athlete:

FRONT-RUNNER The UI became one of the first athletic departments in the country to hire a full-time sports psychologist in July 2011 when Moran-Miller joined the staff. Though UI Athletics already offered a variety of services to address its student-athletes' physical needs, it didn't previously have an internal resource to help nurture mental health.

Since Moran-Miller's hire, the field of sports psychology has grown with increased understanding of the bridge between mental health and performance. Still, fewer than 25 Division I athletic departments currently have a full-time licensed mental health practitioner on staff—putting Iowa ahead of the curve in recognizing its importance.

SPECIALLY TRAINED As a former competitor in three sports, Moran-Miller has valuable insight that informs how she assists Iowa's 650 student-athletes. "Athletics has its own culture," she explains, "and to have someone who speaks that language is important."

After completing specialized coursework in her field, Moran-Miller is licensed as a psychologist with a Ph.D. in counseling psychology and has also earned her certification with the Association for Applied Sports Psychology. More than simply a motivational speaker, Moran-Miller has the expertise to speak with Hawkeye teams on topics such as improving sleep, managing stress, and strengthening relationships.

ALL-AROUND Advocate Moran-Miller's support for UI student-athletes extends far beyond her counseling services. She regularly attends practices, visits the athletic training room, and watches Hawkeyes at games. By actively participating in student-athletes' lives, Moran-Miller hopes students feel comfortable reaching out to her about their emotional health. And while she seeks to be a visible team player for the Hawkeyes, her favorite work involves watching the positive transformations that occur behind-the-scenes.