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March 30, 2020

How the Coronavirus is Affecting College Athletes

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Introduction

Unimaginable is the first word that comes to mind when I think about how this coronavirus is affecting college athletes. As a former Division I athlete, I do not believe there are enough words to explain the heartbreak, sadness, and confusion that student-athletes around the country must be feeling. For many athletes, the coronavirus put an abrupt end to their college career; most were distraught once they heard the news. I spoke with many athletes to find out their stories on how they were affected by the coronavirus. 

Winter Athletes

Due to the coronavirus, all athletes’ winter and spring collegiate sports were canceled for health and safety reasons. Not only were seasons canceled, but athletic careers were ended. March madness is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for collegiate basketball players and serves as one of the best ways for these athletes to get recognized by the NBA. Unfortunately, dreams were taken away from some athletes. 

The NCAA announced that the Division I Council will vote on March 30 concerning eligibility relief for student-athletes.

Senior College Athletes & Spring Athletes

I remember my senior season I would say things such as, “ this is my last bus ride with the team,” “this is my last flight,” “this is my last away game,” “this is my last practice” and “this is my last home game.” Due to the coronavirus, the senior athletes did not have the opportunity to enjoy the “last” moments in their sport. The best advice that I can give is, “play every game like it’s your last.” 

The coronavirus has caused many complications for most athletes.  Many seniors were preparing to graduate and accepted that this was their last season. But since the virus, so many questions came to mind for the athletes: Should I take another year of eligibility so I can play the sport that I worked so hard to play in college? Should I try to accept what happened and just move on? I asked some DI athletes how the coronavirus affected them. 

Insight from Senior College Athletes

“It’s definitely difficult coming to terms with my season abruptly ending. There was an expiration date for my season-ending, and I was prepared for that day. For it to just happen so fast and suddenly was something none of us expected. All of us seniors were sitting in one hotel room, waiting for the news to finally come even though we all knew it was going to happen. It was a bittersweet moment because we had the chance to remember all the good and bad times of playing this sport together. It really made us all appreciate the game even more and mourn the time that we didn’t get. I don’t know what the future will hold, but my love for this game has only grown stronger. I hope it makes everyone appreciate their time as a student-athlete even more.” 

“Well, before any news came out about whether we would get another year of eligibility or not, we were distraught. The seniors were crying together, and it was the weirdest unreal feeling in the world. I kept thinking about how many people told me, “play every game like it’s your last.” And I never thought that it would happen for me the way it did. Some of us felt guilty. Some of us felt helpless. Some of us felt nervous because softball was all we focused on, and we kind of put our futures as a back seat for the most part due to the sport being our love.” 

“Emotionally, it’s been super hard. I think I’ve burst into tears at least once or twice a day since the news. I was distraught when I found out. I’m so sad that I won’t be able to do a lot of lasts… no A10 conference, no senior day, no Rammys, possibly no senior week. My classes have been terribly difficult; my whole college and my senior spring were really light, so I could actually enjoy my college experience. I can’t bond with my teammates or friends. No more crappy dining hall or no more pancake night where I was trying to beat my record (which is seven if you’re interested). There’s so much more I could say too. Mentally, it’s difficult because I didn’t choose to take classes online. I don’t want to try and learn physics in an environment where I can’t speak to the professor. I’m sad, upset, annoyed, and pissed off. I have so many feelings at the moment. I’m trying to hold it all together and just realize that everything has a purpose.”

“I like to think that people know I am a Christian and have a strong faith, so I’m just trying to trust God throughout this because I know everything happens for a reason. I’m trying to have a mentality of “no matter what happens, always give thanks, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus our Lord.” -1 Thessalonians 5:18 

“Well, I was obviously distraught when I found out the season was done, very emotional and heartbroken. Spent the next couple days with seniors talking about everything that’s happened to get us into a better place mentally. It was a horrible couple of days, but at the same time, it brought a lot of us closer together, knowing that we could have played our last game together, and we wouldn’t get the chance to be together much longer. I was still kind of astounded and did not know what to do until we found out that we are most likely allowed to come next year.”

“When everything first started unfolding, I just kept praying that my last season of track, being that I am a senior, would not be canceled. The day that we found out that spring sports would be canceled indefinitely truly shattered my heart into millions of pieces. The only thing that continues to go through my mind was the memories as well as the what if‘s of what was to come this upcoming season. I read an article today that spoke about how as an athlete, the one thing you were always taught not to do was to quit, and with this whole pandemic happening, that is essentially what the world is telling you to do or forcing you to do. Despite all of this, I have always been a person that believes in a higher purpose and meaning behind every action on both the personal and global scale. Yes, my season may have come to an abrupt end; however, I am healthy, and I am alive today. I could only think of the number of people in this world that would do anything in the world for their biggest problem in life to have been their athletic season being canceled. With this entire situation, I can only thank God for my health, the opportunities that track allowed me to experience, and, most importantly, the gift of an education and traveling. I personally have decided to pursue a fifth year; therefore, my story is not over, however, my heart does and always will ache for those athletes that will go the rest of their lives asking themselves what if.” 

“Well, first off, I lost a season. A season I was well prepared for, which would have resulted in some records being broken by the team and myself. I’m lucky enough to have another season, but for many of my friends, their last race was a month ago. They’ll never have another chance to prove themselves, and many of them were distraught when they first found out.” 

“As for just normal life. My education has drastically changed. I don’t feel like all online classes are worth 40,000 dollars. I’ve moved back in with my parents and FaceTime my girlfriend, who lives in New Jersey once a day. I think the worst part is the uncertainty. I don’t know if things are going to be normal. Will we go back to school in the fall, will the season go on like normal?” 

Fall Athletes

I thought discussing how the coronavirus has affected fall athletes was important. I played soccer, and I know that having an off-season canceled could be a detriment. The offseason is a time where the team builds chemistry on, and off the field, players build strength and speed and it’s a time to sharpen skills. 

The coronavirus is prohibiting athletes to participate in the offseason, and I know many people are focused on how this has affected winter/spring sports, but it is still important to note how this affects the fall athletes. Not having a spring season will definitely affect the team’s performance in the fall. I reached out to some student-athletes who play fall sports and asked them how this coronavirus has affected them.

Insight from Fall Athletes

“Spring season is the time when people, especially the freshman, learn the true environment of the program. There is something valuable in waking up at 5 am for practice and having gritty lifts. Spring games are a great opportunity for everyone to showcase what they bring to the team. Not being able to be together, bond as a unit, and grow together will definitely hurt us in some ways. We’re working around this obstacle and finding new ways to grow as a team and making sure everyone is still doing their part! Definitely missing the team!” 

“I feel like it ruined our momentum that we had going as a team. We were all grinding and pushing/motivating each other for the fall, but the season-ending abruptly messed that up.” 

“I would say that us not being together for the spring is definitely a challenge because of how hard we work in the spring. However, everyone is really antsy and trying to do as much as they can from home so they can still go into the summer in great shape.” 

“So with the spring season getting canceled, it delays our preparations for the fall season. With a big group of seniors graduating, the coaches need as much time as possible to get a sense of what our team is going to look like in the fall and for us (the players) to build chemistry with the new setup. Now we only have the couple weeks we get in the preseason in August, and with more freshmen coming in, the season will blindside us, and we won’t be as prepared as we would like.”

YOUR JOURNEY STARTS HERE