No different than my student-athlete development colleagues across the country, what I love most about my job is seeing my staff and student-athletes working together, in daily study hall and one-on-one meetings. I love seeing that firsthand impact on our student-athletes’ lives.
COVID-19 has changed our normal, and it has been challenging and emotional for all of us. We cannot see our student-athletes in person; everything is virtual. It’s not easy. Even though my home office is comfortable, has a window and an unlimited supply of coffee, it is missing the personal connection to my amazing staff and student-athletes.
I am so proud of how my staff acted quickly and devised a great plan (the extra week of spring break helped) to support our student-athletes with virtual academics, career development and planning for life after sport. Through FaceTime, Zoom, Loom, text groups and, of course, email, we have been super intentional about keeping things as consistent as possible during this challenging time. These collaborative efforts include:
- 300+ Zoom support sessions a week (tutoring, academic mentoring, learning specialist one-on-one sessions).
- Structured Zoom team study hall sessions.
- Academic advising.
- Biweekly full staff meetings (Zoom) and academic counselor meetings.
- Academic enrichment and student-athlete enhancement weekly staff meetings (Zoom).
- One-on-one weekly meetings with staff members (Zoom).
Initially, we felt good about where our student-athletes were heading into this “homebound” situation, in terms of access to internet and laptops, as well as their ability to adjust. However, two weeks in, reality set in.
We had several student-athletes who discovered they did not have reliable resources at home and several who struggled without the normal structure we provide. Similar to nonathletes or the stories circulating nationally, it is just not that simple to expect all students to successfully transition to all online classes in their homes, with family and siblings homebound at the same time. I am proud of Ole Miss Athletics and how we have been creative with resources to accommodate our student-athletes who are away from campus and struggling.