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

I remember March 12 very well; I think we all do.

Waking up for another day of spring season practice, nervous excitement, eager anticipation and general pre-match anxieties were buzzing through my head as I was getting myself ready for our upcoming match against Seton Hall on March 14.

This was not just any match. This was supposed to be the last of a few matches left for me as a Seahawk at Wagner. I was only a few wins away from having a shot at finishing my college tennis career with the highest singles wins in school history.

To describe what transpired later as “unexpected” would be a colossal understatement. Within a few hours, my college tennis career came to a precipitous and abrupt end. Our spring season got suspended and subsequently canceled, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within hours, the situation worsened to the extent that I had no option but to leave campus. Four years of college life were quickly packed into three suitcases and some boxes. With a few rushed goodbyes and a last glance at the Wagner tennis courts, I found myself on a direct 16-hour flight back to India. As I recall my time on that flight, I was still optimistic that this was only temporary, and I would be back on campus within a few short weeks.

As a senior, I had come to terms with having to say goodbye to my student-athlete life after graduation in May. It was seemingly easy because the end of college tennis would have been marked by a celebration of this amazing journey and a transition into other avenues of sports that were close to my heart.

Having my final semester and last season cut short so abruptly has not been an easy pill to swallow. Neither have the adjustments that followed.

The first few weeks back home were extremely difficult to adjust to. What was I doing at home in the month of March? It seemed so surreal. I was supposed to be competing with my teammates.

As each day went by, the prospect of going back to college kept becoming bleaker and eventually impossible. Even though our college was quick to adapt to this changed scenario and classes soon began online, I had difficulty adjusting to a schedule of staying awake at night and sleeping through the day due to the 9.5-hour time difference between New Delhi and New York.

Being an international student-athlete and experiencing the challenges of adapting to the American culture have taught me how to handle change and be resilient. Although this ongoing transition into the new normal has been difficult, through the learnings from my past experiences, I have begun to find ways to adjust and overcome.

I have taken this time as an opportunity for personal growth and development by focusing on my mental and physical health. As a family, we have introduced a new weekend tradition of having a small party among ourselves at home with music and candlelight to break the daily monotony and spend some quality time with one another in a fun setting.

Similarly, my teammates and I have created a schedule by which we are given an inspiring talk or motivational video to watch, and we discuss it each week on our Zoom call after a long gossip and catch-up session.

In this new normal, my work as a student-athlete leader with the Northeast Conference and NCAA has been helpful. Sitting on the Northeast Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Experience Committee and NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct has kept me preoccupied and motivated to channel my energy and focus on the things I enjoy doing outside of playing sports.

I also decided to capitalize on my passion for working out and cooking healthy meals by creating an Instagram page to share my ideas on health, wellness, fitness and nutrition with my network.

We all are in a situation of grave discomfort and uncertainty that affects not only the people we know but also the global community. I encourage everyone to be kind and stay connected to the people around you. Ensure that you are not only staying home and safe but also taking care of your mental health during this time. This has truly been a period of learning where we begin to cherish the importance of love, gratitude and unity.

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