Since March, all of our lives have been impacted by COVID-19, especially athletes and the sports industry. When the Olympics, NBA, NFL, MLS, and MLB were postponed, most people assumed that they were temporary measures. People did not expect the “break” to last as long as it did. Similarly, people did not expect the short and long-term consequences of the coronavirus to affect sports at the professional level or here at Ridgewood High School.
Many RHS sports teams have had their season shortened, delayed, or canceled. Athletes were forced to find other ways to keep in shape, which usually means working out alone. This results in losing the support and regular contact of their teammates, coaches, and trainers. The consequences of the postponed season are physical, because athletes have to challenge themselves to follow structured workouts. Alex Garcia, a sophomore soccer player at RHS, said that: “When quarantine started, the soccer season was delayed. I couldn’t go to team practices so I had to practice on my own. It was really hard to actually practice and I didn’t have the same motivation because I had to do it before school started.”
In addition to physical challenges, mental challenges arise because athletes are used to being around teammates which naturally stimulates competitiveness and motivates each individual to work harder. Without team camaraderie, some athletes may feel anxious, lonely, and stressed out which can impact performance. Even if or when there are team practices, there are many restrictions in place that make the situation stressful. For example, football is a sport that requires teamwork to succeed. But due to the virus, gathering as a team is difficult, to say the least. Edward Sohn, a JV football player said: “last year, we had lifting days as a team, but now we have to make an appointment through Google classroom with a maximum of nine people at once which I don’t like. Also, the school sets a time for each sport to use the fitness center and 6 AM is the time we got which is super tiring to wake up early and work out. We don’t get to watch films as a team anymore. So basically, we have to maintain social distance during any time given.”
Crowds are limited at sporting events, and in some cases, spectators are not allowed at all. Without the energy of the audience, players may not get the same intensity or feel as engaged when in competition. Besides athletes, many parents and student spectators also found sports to be a big part of their lives. Since they are not attending games this season they may also suffer from feelings of disappointment. As a country, sports has been able to generate a feeling of community and belonging among people of diverse backgrounds. Duke University’s basketball team, for instance, usually attracts students to camp out for tickets days ahead of a home game. Without sports as a way to bond, society may feel more fragmented. Is it a coincidence that the social issues we are experiencing in this country have been more pronounced than ever before?
On an economic level, the impact of the coronavirus on sports is immense. Many students rely on scholarships to attend college. Due to shorter seasons and less funding, college athletic departments may be reduced and as a result scholarships for athletes will be limited. Scouts may also feel unsafe to travel to other locations to recruit athletes. Along the same lines, the limited spots available will raise the standards that recruiters have. There will be greater competition for scholarships so all athletes will have to work harder not only athletically but also academically.
The consequences of COVID-19 are impacting everyone. At the direct level, sports programs and opportunities to play sports are limited. It affects non-athletes too, since they have limited leisure choices. At the larger level, this disrupts the community and influences the mental health and social lives of everyone.
Sports and Wellness Columnist
Graphic: Sunny Rhew