Morgan Coppoc finds herself in a situation similar to so many other college athletes across the US: She is hundreds of kilometers away from campus, and lost without her routine and her tennis teammates at the University of Georgia.
Still, she is regularly hearing from her coaches for individual check-ins, as well as receiving updates for the entire team, including the latest details about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school counseling office also keeps in contact with Coppoc at home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to offer sessions by telephone that she would have typically attended in person.
“This whole situation has been hard to process and still feels so surreal,” Coppoc said. “I have been experiencing many emotions across the spectrum. First, I was in denial. It was impossible to accept the gravity of what was happening. I even refused to unpack my clothes once I was back home in Oklahoma. I was scared. Now I’m 13 hours from campus and my closest friends, teammates and coaches.”
Leaders in college athletics are doing their best to adapt in real time to help athletes such as Coppoc. Coaches are making efforts to keep teams emotionally close when they have suddenly been scattered across the country — and in many cases the world.
Regular video calls and group texts have replaced face-to-face interactions as they embrace new ways to help young athletes cope with a crisis that has also taken away the sports they loved, the very thing that defined many of them.
Coppoc’s coach at Georgia, Jeff Wallace, reached out on the team’s group chat platform.
“I just said something like: ‘Hope everyone’s doing well, staying safe, life as we know it has changed dramatically,’ and encouraged everybody to keep working out, hydrate, get your rest and practice social distancing,” Wallace said.
“Never thought I would advise anyone to stay away from others, and ‘if anyone needs anything or has any questions, please reach out.’ Finally, ‘it would be great to hear how, what everyone is doing in short periodical updates, that would be awesome.’”
At the University of Arkansas, men’s basketball coach Eric Musselman and his counterparts in other sports are keeping tabs on every student athlete through a detailed spreadsheet — when someone is on the move, they know about it.
“I think for all of us in college athletics the No. 1 focus always has to be on the student’s well-being,” Musselman said. “All coaches in every sport want to win, but the bottom line in all of this is that these guys are 17 to 21-year-olds in the prime part of their lives when they’re still trying to figure out the world. We have an obligation — whether in season, out of season or post-playing career — to remain a big part of their lives, to be there for them.”
Communication specialists and mental health professionals are encouraging coaches and others to allow these young men and women to go through the stages of grieving as needed, as they adjust after the unexpected disappearance of the seasons they trained for and the camaraderie of daily practices and team meals.
Providing comfort and security is important to ensure that people know where to turn for a sense of some normalcy.
“That’s general human nature, but I think it is heightened with young people,” said former Tulane University athletics director Rick Dickson, who guided the school’s athletic department through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “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.”
Uncertainty grips next year’s postponed Tokyo Olympic Games: Will there be fans or empty stadiums in 14 months? How will thousands of athletes, staff members and technical officials travel, be housed and stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic? And the Tokyo Games are not the only event. China, where COVID-19 was first detected, is to hold three mega-sports events in the year after the Tokyo Olympics are set to close. The World University Games in Chengdu, China, are to open, with up to 8,000 athletes, only 10 days after the Tokyo Games close. Next come the Beijing Winter Olympics beginning on Feb. 4, 2022,
When South Korea’s domestic women’s golf tour held its premier event last week — without spectators because of the COVID-19 pandemic — no fewer than three of the world’s top 10 players took part. The country of 52 million people has a disproportionate share of the women’s world golf rankings, providing eight of the current top 20. In a demonstration of their prominence, South Korean women have won at least one major every season since 2010, with coronavirus cancellations perhaps the biggest threat to their run this year. The phenomenon, players and commentators have said, results from driven parents, intense training, a highly
The COVID-19 pandemic has stalled young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas’ burgeoning career, but he remains philosophical about the tennis shutdown. The world No. 6 would have been preparing for the French Open that was originally scheduled to start this weekend, but was postponed to September. While he is missing life on the ATP Tour, Tsitsipas believes that the lockdown has given the planet a breather. “I actually think they should put us in lockdown once a year — it’s good for nature, it’s good for our planet,” Tsitsipas said in an Instagram Live conversation for At Home With Babsi on Eurosport’s Instagram page. “I
PANDEMIC HYGIENE: Players had their temperatures checked, carried their own equipment and towels, and tapped rackets to congratulate the match winners Alison Riske and Danielle Collins of the US and Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic were among the winners on Friday, the opening day of a women’s tennis mini-tournament in Florida that offered professional players an opportunity to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The WTA women’s tennis tour canceled four more events this week and is not to resume until at least July 20. However, four women ranked in the top 60 in the world turned out for the UTR Pro Match Series event in Palm Beach, which followed a similar event for men two weeks ago. World No. 51 Collins toppled 28th-ranked compatriot Amanda Anisimova