The New Normal How COVID-19 is impacting life on and off campus for NCAA members

I’m a former student-athlete, a rower at Sacramento State. I love college athletics. I grew up with it, and, if I’m lucky, it will be part of my life for a very long time. And now that love has translated to helping student-athletes.

I recently started my new job as an academic advisor at Southern California in August. I work with the football and swimming and diving teams, and I’ve been blessed by the opportunity to be challenged. I love a good challenge. But COVID-19 has brought new challenges that none of us could see coming.

In all honesty, there’s no way to have been prepared for the storm of what working at home means for student-athlete services professionals. And I feel so lucky to be on a staff that did not miss a beat. We completely turned over all our services online and are serving our students all over the globe.

I perceived that working from home would be great. However, I really am now available 24/7. I’ve tried to keep my scheduled weekly meetings with students to give both of us comfort in familiarity and structure, but the reality is I’m always accessible. Texts, calls, emails, Zoom, FaceTime — everything is constantly going off. One morning I got off the phone with 35 unread texts and 15 missed calls, and I sincerely thought about throwing it out the window.

One thing I’ve noticed, though, is more accessibility does not equate to more connection.

The best time I have getting to know my students are the in-between moments — when they’re waiting in my office before a tutoring session, when we’re at study hall talking or when they show excitement after I go to their event.

I still talk to my students, but I have to say I really miss them. I miss these in-between moments. Our staff meets regularly on Zoom multiple times a week, but I miss them, too. I miss the conversations that happen after staff meetings or during a quick coffee run. Now more than ever, I’ve been reminded how important it is to make time for those moments.

I need to be upfront. This has been hard, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t struggling. Right before our school officially moved to an online format, our staff was in a meeting (what would be our last in-person staff meeting for who knows how long), and something has stuck with me since. Our faculty athletics representative, Alan Green, casually added, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” I don’t want to make light of the current state our world is in, but I’ve held on to this when I start to feel negative and stressed.

I’m blown away that I have video calls with student-athletes who are now spread across the nation. I’ve gotten to meet parents and siblings of the students I meet with over video calls. In return, they have gotten to see parts of my home and family, even if it is just my fiance accidentally playing video games too loudly in the background of a call.

Kim Gross, academic advisor at Southern California, is a former student-athlete at Sacramento State.

I learned quickly that working from home has made it even harder for me to take breaks. So I walk every morning to make sure I get outside before I start work and still go to my local coffee shop regularly. I have a weekly FaceTime call with my old teammates because they are still the closest friends I have. Cooking has become fun again. And I’m getting creative in finding household items that also can be used as workout equipment.

For once in the madness of working in college sports, I have been gifted with time, the type of time that can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you use it. I’m still working on how to use it properly, but in my field, I always pride myself on living by example for my students. So I’m choosing to stick to a routine, grant myself grace and get better every day.

I’m choosing not let a good crisis go to waste.

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