Changing Seasons: COVID and Student-Athletes

Athletes are used to the grueling regimen of training required of a college sport. What makes the training bearable is the relationships they develop with teammates and players from other schools. This new lack of communication due to the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted athlete’s mental health.  

For many student-athletes, participating in sports has helped them stay healthy and motivated throughout their college careers. Taking part in sports provides athletes with the opportunity to clear their heads and focus on something meaningful.

Andrea Coyle is a Junior on Brockport’s Women’s Volleyball team; she said the changes made to her practices have taken a toll on her in more ways than one. 

“Mentally and emotionally, it’s been tough not being with our team as much, we only practice three times a week compared to five times a week and two games in the weekend,” said Coyle, “We are not allowed to play with our entire team because we can only practice nine on a court, so we have two courts at once playing separately.” 

This past month SUNY athletes recently received the news that winter sports will be canceled for the 2020-2021 season. As a result, student-athletes at SUNY Brockport have experienced major change, the sports that they have been practicing for years must be played in a completely new way.  

SUNY Brockport North Tuttle Gym. Photo via Brockport Athletics. 

“Everything has changed for us since March 11, when the NCAA cancelled winter championships.” said Dani Drews, Assistant Athletic Director at SUNY Brockport.

“The spring seasons were cancelled shortly after that. Since that time, we have focused on trying to create opportunities for teams to be together, but with a focus on team building and student-athlete mental health, not on training for championships.” Drews said.   

Throughout high school, athletes greatly anticipate the moment they will be able to play in college. The COVID-19 pandemic has made these student’s seasons look nothing like what they envisioned. Although, changes that have been made to their seasons have impacted more than just their physical performance. 

“Athletics is part of their DNA and for most, if not all, they have been playing their sport since they were little.” Drews said, “Every team, every student-athlete has now lost a season, so it is a real strain, physically and mentally. We are grateful to have the chance to be together and play, even with limitations. It’s important to remind ourselves that more than many of our peers have been able to do.”  

Andrea Coyle during a game in the Fall 2019 Season. Photo via Instagram.

In an effort ensure their safety and stop the spread of COVID-19, athletes are required to follow a set protocol. These sports require constant physical contact, but with COVID cases rising everyday student-athletes must learn how to play their game differently. 

“Everything needs to be in the correct order so we can continue having practices.” said Mia Montgomery on Brockport’s Track and Field team. “We make sure everything is sanitized and we’re wearing our mask correctly. We take what we do very seriously and want to make change for the better so things can eventually get back to normal.” 

It is hard to tell when these athletes will be back to practice as normal. The news that winter sports will be canceled impacts the seasons of spring sports as well. If the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout college campuses, spring sports might face a similar outcome.  

Ryan Mansell, a Junior on the Brockport Baseball team, said the bulk of the team’s training begins in the winter season.  

“There is always the possibility our season will still happen, with it starting in the spring, but it also could get canceled at any moment.” said Mansell. 

Mansell said that this season is unlike anything he has done before, masks must be worn at every practice and social distancing is required. His teammates remain hopeful, but they are unsure of what the future of their season will look like.  

“We practice three days a week only about two hours a day,” Mansell said, “I think we still have a chance of being good but it’s definitely going to be a challenge.” 

Dani Drews is confident in the performance of these athletes. Although it has been a difficult time for them, she is impressed with their ability to stay vigilant while still practicing.  

“As much as it has been challenging, mentally and logistically, we are really proud of what we have been able to accomplish this fall,” Drews said, “Every team has had a chance to train and build camaraderie. We have stressed that we need everyone to follow the new rules and protocols to keep us safe, to keep our campus and community safe. It was a lot of pressure on them, but our student-athletes have been nothing short of amazing. We’re so proud of them and how they have responded to this, hopefully, once in a lifetime situation.” 

It is more than just a sport for these student-athletes. Athletics allows people to make connections and develop relationships they will keep long after they play their last game. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely up ended these seasons, yet as athletes always do, they will continue to adapt.  



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