By Ben Line-Neumann, Eric Gray, and Satchel Perlowski
Never in the 21st century have we seen anything quite like this. A pandemic so major and so at large that it has nearly shut down an entire planet. The case of COVID-19 has turned the United States of America into a ghost town. The virus has now caused America to shut down it’s major businesses, all of it’s sporting leagues and events, has canceled concerts and festivals across the nation, and has even forced Americans to shield themselves in the safety of their own homes.
While the coronavirus has been stopping the American worker from making a living, they are not the only people affected by this pandemic. With the closing of all schools nationwide, high school athletes have taken a major hit during the pandemic, and it has greatly affected the way that recruiting will be handled.
One area that has been greatly affected by COVID-19 would be Seattle, Washington. Seattle has had the misfortune of having one of the first cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Due to the lack of preparation from the start, the virus was able to spread fast within the Seattle area, turning it into a COVID-19 hotspot. This, in turn, shut down all Washington schools as of March 13, including all high school athletics. AmyAnn Sullivan, the Athletic Trainer at Auburn High School in the Seattle area, has not only had to deal with stress of not working, but the sadness felt by the student athletes she works with on a daily basis.
“What is sad about this, mainly for the seniors that didn’t get a scholarship, is that this is the year that they have to prove themselves or maybe to get one last chance to get looked at, and now they won’t have that opportunity,” said AmyAnn.
Fortunately AmyAnn is still employed by Auburn High School, but through all of the chaos, her number one priority is still her athletes.
“The hard thing is, at a very diverse, very low income [high school], is actually the fear of my athletes being safe at home and getting enough to eat,” said AmyAnn. “I still go through google classroom and zoom and talk to the athletes and ask if they need anything, and our school actually gives the kids breakfast and lunches if they can’t get it at home.”
The most frustrating part for these high school athletes is the inability to be able to prove themselves on the field and the potential in getting recruited. During the spring season sports, athletes look to show their capabilities on the field during their junior year, as this is the year where college recruits tend to look and judge whether or not they fit in with their program. Most student athletes will get a college offer before they even play their senior season. While this is not the end of the road for these juniors, the virus has put a roadblock in arguably their most important season. However, AmyAnn and her staff have encouraged their athletes to keep strong and to take some steps to try to gain attention by recruits.
“It’s a huge thing for juniors to get looked at. It’s hard that they don’t have the resources to [get looked at by colleges],” said AmyAnn. “Fortunately, some of them will play summer ball if that does not get canceled. We’ve been encouraging the athletes, telling them that if they have footage of themselves to send it out to colleges, or to talk to myself or their coaches for help.”
AmyAnn continued to talk about encouraging her players, as some athletes can now take the time to work on their game and practice to get even better for next season. However, not only is this frustrating for the athletes, but the virus has also put a hold on the coaches being able to work with their teams.
“It is very hard for coaches,” said AmyAnn. “It is really hard for them to know that they won’t get the opportunity to play with this team.”
AmyAnn discussed the frustration with the softball team especially. According to her, the softball coach has been able to build up their program the last few years, and this was going to be the year where the team could potentially make it to the state finals for the first time in program history.
While AmyAnn would love for schools to open back up before the school year ends, she is not optimistic, and fears that starting back up would cause more damage for athletes than good.
“The date that we are supposed to go back is April 27. The WIA, which is the sanction for the high schools, talked about that they would just start as normal and just try to play as many games as possible,” said AmyAnn. “My concern with that is you’ve been off for a month and then you shove in games that kids aren’t prepared for because they really haven’t been doing much, and are we going to be looking at injuries now.”
AmyAnn believes that schools will not come back until the fall. Until then, she makes a suggestion to everyone across the nation to stay safe.
Along with the fear of high school athletes getting injured after coming back to play, there is also a major fear of their mental health while they are away from their sport. Ashley Goodman, a consultant for the Green Bay Packers, has a history of working with players’ mental health and development. She fears that this pandemic could cause some potential issues for high school athletes.
“COVID-19 is just like any other kind of adversity, whether it’s injuries or struggling in school,” said Ashley. “Primarily we would see an increase in stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.”
With the potential for mental instability to rise due to COVID-19, Ashley has some methods to help cope with the pandemic.
“Practicing mindfulness or mental toughness through different breathing mechanisms of breathing techniques, whether that be 30 seconds, taking a deep inhale holding it for three to five seconds and then letting out a deep exhale,” said Ashley. “Doing a write and toss can also help, which is a technique that whatever we are fearing or whatever we are feeling anxious about, that we write that down on a piece of paper and then you either rip it up or burn it. It is supposed to be a form of release. We are controlling what we can but that we need to get those thoughts out of our heads of what is making us stressed or anxious.”
Both Ashley and AmyAnn hope that these methods can help ease the stress and anxiety these athletes are currently going through. AmyAnn hopes that at the end of this horrific pandemic, we can all appreciate what we have more. She uses sports as an example, as sports is one thing in America that brings us together, and we can appreciate it more now when remembering it was once taken away from us.
No matter where you are from, this situation is terrible for everybody. The staff here at HSPN Sports simply hopes that everyone stays safe at home, stays clean, and makes the best out of these difficult times.