In March, I left the University of Virginia for spring break. Volleyball training was at peak intensity, and I was ready for some rest. Little did I know, I would be getting a few months off instead of the usual week. COVID-19 put countless things on hold. As a student-athlete, my whole world flipped. I went from nonstop, busy days to a standstill – and this was the reality for people all around the world. However, the uncertain future of college sports is taking a particular toll on the attitudes and mental health of student-athletes this season.
On my team, we have access to sports psychologists 24/7. Now more than ever – the psychologists at UVA are paying extra close attention to their athletes. In speaking with my psychologist at school, she says her schedule has never been so busy. On the volleyball team specifically, we have had many conversations about the Fall 2020 athletic season.
Much of the anxiety from my team comes from uncertainty. We report to school and train our hardest – and it all could be for nothing. The season could get canceled in two days, two weeks, or two months. Despite having absolutely no control over the outcome, we continue to train hard.
The seniors on the team are especially on edge. For all they know, tomorrow could be their last time playing collegiate volleyball. After three years of devoting yourself to a program, it could be devastating not to receive recognition in your last year.
Another issue is the protocol. Don’t get me wrong – we need to stay safe and obey all the rules. However, for those who are from home and rely on their college friends for a sense of closeness, COVID-19 protocol restricts this from happening. The rules for every school are different, but in my experience, it has been difficult to fill this hole of homesickness. I am not advocating for the termination of necessary COVID-19 protocol, but am bringing to light the effects it has on student athlete life.
These days, the future is ambiguous. Plans are released, but they are always subject to change. Now that sports teams are back to training, the uneasiness has steadily increased around my college campus. Mental health has never before been so strongly emphasized, and teammates depend on one another heavily to stay healthy. All we can do now is put in the work and hope for a steady season.