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

Gratitude has been my focus during this unique period in our history.

I, like most people, am working daily to manage the many emotions that come with COVID-19 and the change in day-to-day life. Admittedly, I am an extrovert and a complete “I” if we are looking at the DiSC assessment, although I have been known to enjoy my fair share of uninterrupted “me time” pre-social distancing.

This experience has confirmed that I am a creature of habit and not being able to move freely and “stick to the plan” has been an adjustment (self-reflection is real). While I prefer schedules and constant movement, this has forced me to stop and reprioritize how we are programing student-athlete enhancement at Ole Miss.

After receiving the work-from-home order, I was a bit overwhelmed with discussing how we were going to serve our student-athletes during such a crucial time.

For a student-athlete enhancement professional, the spring semester is filled with graduation preparation and internship and job searches. After discussion with the Ole Miss SAE staff, we decided on a plan of action for our remote SAE event schedule for the duration of the semester. Surely, we thought, we could provide our services virtually. It is 2020; anything is possible.

It was vital for us to scale down our programming to ensure we were providing an alternative and not increasing anxiety among our target population. We want our programming to be a complement to the student-athlete experience.

We decided to schedule individual sessions with student-athletes using a combination of FaceTime, Skype and Zoom. (We are open to all options.) While anticipating challenges with scheduling, I remembered that Calendly was an amazing resource that would merge our Outlook calendars and schedule appointments while connecting all the applications we are using.

The ability to not overschedule relieved my anxiety immediately. These platforms allowed us to continue our career development sessions and meet virtually with two of our leadership groups, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Rebels International.

When considering how to deliver workshops online for student-athletes, it was important that they were accessible at any time of the day. Our career counselor, Ravin Gilbert, discovered Loom. It is an online platform that allows you to prerecord workshops and provide a link for your student-athletes in your desired format. We wanted to make sure we did not add stress to our student-athletes but provide added value and some normalcy to their lives. As a former athletic academic counselor, I am aware of the challenges moving to online classes can pose during a critical juncture in the semester, so we did not want to impede their work.

While I was confident in our plan of action, it was a call with my Southeastern Conference colleague Erica Nelson, from Arkansas, to check in and “idea share” that set me on the right path. I believe it takes a village. Erica’s listening ear and help organizing put a bow on our plan. I am so grateful for her friendship.

I have realized a few key things during this time:

1. Bring people to the table. Being in a silo will not yield the best product for your intended audience. Get everyone involved to make sure the plan will work for your student-athletes.

2. Idea sharing is a must. While we are all at different institutions and have different focuses, ultimately there is no need to reinvent the wheel when in crisis.

3. Adjustments are going to happen. You will need to take the pulse of your student-athletes, and if they are feeling the “heat” just like we are as professionals, we may need to take a break from the “plan” and just laugh. I check in with student-athletes daily. It helps me have some normalcy.

4. Breathe. Go for a walk, listen to music, meditate or do something you enjoy. Boundaries are important. As work and home collide, it can seem like there is not an end, but it all will be OK.

I have learned to try something new, and if it doesn’t work, we can change it. There is a silver lining in everything, and, right now, we can choose to be grateful for the people, the office, the noise and the random office drop-ins by student-athletes that we hope to return to soon. This interruption is pushing us to expand our toolboxes and continue to be resilient because that is what we do.

As I close this post, this reflection has filled my heart with gratitude and excitement for what is to come because another day is a blessing and an opportunity to create art in our own way.

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