RCW: Therapy dogs help calm student-athlete nerves

Elite student-athletes push their bodies and performances to the absolute limit and life on the extreme fringe sometimes leads to injury. Whether its a simple ankle strain, concussion or something more severe, recovering from injuries is both a physical and mental challenge.

Recently, Kansas swimming and diving experienced an injury during practice that affected the entire squad, specifically the Jayhawk divers. Committed to enhancing the student-athlete experience, KU Leads partnered with Watkins Health Services on campus to provide assistance dogs from Loving Paws Therapy for several days at practice. One of the dogs was a two-and-a-half year-old Boxer named Layla from a farm outside Lawrence, who spent time hanging out with the team inside the Robinson Center Dryland Training Room. 

According to the Complementary Health Practice Review, “Animal-assisted interventions, which include both animal-assisted activities and therapies, have historically been beneficial to human health,” and non-scientific, post-session reviews from the divers were very positive. 

KU Leads, the Kansas Jayhawks’ student-athlete development unit,  focuses on leadership training, community engagement, traditions and professional development to enhance the student-athlete experience. Within KU Leads, the Kansas K Club – the department’s letterwinners association – has the mission is to help preserve the history and traditions of Kansas Athletics, support current student-athletes, and connect former participants, coaches, student athletic trainers and managers of varsity sports at the University of Kansas.