A New Reality For Student-Athletes

How college athletics is adapting to the new situation.

While this is an unusual and challenging situation for people all over the world, college teams and coaches are taking measures to support their players, who are facing a new reality now.

Student-athletes are used to having a full schedule – finding some free time between classes, practice, workouts, games, and team meetings can be a struggle at times. While being a student-athlete in college certainly is demanding, it provides one with routines, stability, and a purpose as well. From one day to the other, millions of student-athletes now returned home facing an empty schedule.

“They’re so invested, especially in sport, their time, their commitment, their passion, all of that, and when that is rocked to the core, they need the certainty and stability they can turn to and depend on. That’s their source for so many things,” says Rick Dickson, former athletic director of Tulane.

To ensure their players’ wellbeing, many coaches are now looking out for their players virtually. It is any coach’s intention to maintain a feeling of unity within a team – even if players are now spread all across the country. For instance, Arkansas’ men’s basketball head coach Eric Musselman is keeping tabs on his student-athletes using a detailed spreadsheet. He also regularly facetimes his players to be able to look them in the eye and check on how they are doing.

“I think for all of us in college athletics the No. 1 focus always has to be on the student’s well-being,” said Musselman said. We have an obligation, whether in season, out of season, or post-playing career remaining a big part of their lives, being there for them.”

In addition, mental health professionals are encouraging college coaches to help their players adjust. It can be difficult for all these young men and women to face a reality, where they will not be able to see their hard work pay off in big games, have dinner with their teammates, and be doing their sport for an uncertain period of time. As a replacement, coaches may now hold virtual award ceremonies, press conferences, let players prepare practice drills, or share a book that the whole team can read and discuss.

“It is very similar to grieving,” said Nino Giarratano, University of San Francisco baseball coach. “We are in contact daily trying to help them academically, athletically and keeping their spirits up.”

As challenging as this time is right now, it is crucial for everybody to take precautions, so that students and athletes can return to normal as soon as possible.

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