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

I am a history major — well, I was many, many moons ago. Relevance, you ask? Well, as a self-proclaimed history buff, I can surely attest to the fact that our world and the vast majority of its inhabitants have never experienced anything close to what we are walking through now.

As an athletics administrator and a head coach of a spring sport, I can say the past four months have been some of the most challenging of my career. But, at the same time, they have revealed some of the most beautiful parts of the human spirit.

As the news unfolded that the NBA would be suspended, I can recall beginning to process the thought that this would certainly have a trickle-down effect on the NCAA and then, of course, to my softball program.

Sure enough, on the morning of March 12, our athletics department was called in by our executive vice president and told that effective immediately our spring season would be suspended and, most likely, canceled.

I think the biggest challenge I have faced in all of this is just having to face my team, and explain in particular to my 10 seniors that not only is their final season over but, in most cases, so is their softball career.

It was hard. It was emotional. But, most of all, it was something we experienced together, as a family. Just like every other thing a team goes through in a season together, this was something we needed to lean into each other to process and find some peace in what was a very chaotic time, in both mind and body.

In the days and months that have followed, I have begun to serve in a new role here at the institution, acting as both the interim athletics director and head softball coach. It has been amazing to watch so many people step up on our campus to help lead and serve during this unprecedented time. We have developed several ways to stay connected to our student-athletes, and we have had so much collaboration across campus from others who have come alongside us to help provide whatever they can during this time.

We have a designated mental health counselor from our Wellness Center, which has provided videos to our students and, more specifically, our student-athletes. These videos give them viable tips to help with depression, anxiety and dealing with overall uncertainty. This has been an awesome tool for our entire department.

Our athletics department is in the midst of a weekly podcast that we have named “Stay the Course,” in which all full-time coaches are partaking, each week providing some guidance and advice on navigating the things they may face in the coming weeks and how to stay the course mentally, academically, physically, spiritually and socially.

Campuswide Zoom calls, Google Hangouts, virtual “fireside” chats and numerous other opportunities for students, faculty and staff also have allowed people a chance to stay connected and be in fellowship together.

That is the beautiful part of sport: It brings people together. It provides a built-in family that offers support in dark times and shares the joys of the good stuff. More than anything, it’s a community where you learn to get through anything that life may throw your way and come out on the other side with a new sense of strength and unity. It’s like battling back from a five-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning or snapping a 20-game losing streak. Anyone who has played sports at any level knows that’s what sport teaches you. We can and we will get through this, and we can and we will be better because of it.

While I realize around the world these are some of the toughest times we will face in our lifetime, I am confident God has a plan. I am confident we can rely on the lessons that sports have instilled in us all.

We have a choice how we will respond to this.

And as we all navigate different paths, I say this to those many spring sport senior student-athletes: Know that your time in collegiate athletics, even if it may be over, will leave you better prepared to deal with any and all things that may come your way. Reach out to your loved one and friends, reconnect with your teammates, both old and new, and check in on your coaches.

At Concordia (California), we will continue to work through this together, with a mindset to provide all the support we can to continue to provide more wise, honorable and cultivated citizens into the world.

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