How COVID-19 is affecting NCAA athletes’ upcoming seasons across the U.S.

NCAA Baseball. (pixabay/KeithJJ)

With the coronavirus pandemic upending all areas of life, college sports have been put on hold and the NCAA sporting calendar has faced unprecedented cancellations and left many athletes without a season.      

Online school and social distancing protocols have impacted the way coaches communicate with their teams and forced athletes to train on their own.    

“Our season got cut short, about 15 games into a 56 game season, so we still had a long way to go,” said pitcher for Cal State Northridge’s baseball team, Jeremy Hassel. “We currently have a team WhatsApp that we all stay pretty connected with the players and coaches in, but recently have been starting Zoom calls with our position groups. I’ve been meeting with our pitching staff and coaches every Tuesday morning.”  

Hassel and his team plan on returning to campus in the fall with modified practices, but Cal State Northridge has not confirmed the status of its campus and students are preparing for an additional online semester. Although the status of his season remains unknown, the baseball pitcher has been focusing on staying in shape and keeping his arm healthy. 

“Our coaches have always encouraged us to do more when nobody is watching,” said Hassel. “This is an opportunity for us as student athletes to either get better, or get worse at our sport while working out with what we have at home.”       

While the reopening of California colleges and universities continues to be debated, few schools in Texas announced their plans to return to campus. Among those is the University of Texas at Austin. 

The president of the university sent a letter to its students and community, informing them of the goal for fall and for them to expect a definitive decision by June. The standing of its athletic schedule has not been determined.   

“I have not heard about the status of my season, but they are telling us more information on May 31,” said goalkeeper for the UT Austin soccer team, Madison Hogue.   

The goalkeeper has been staying in contact with her coaches through weekly Zoom meetings and phone calls. The team’s strength and conditioning coach sent fitness packets to each player to encourage them to stay fit and keep up their training.  

“I stay motivated because I just had back surgery and I want to be in the best shape of my life when I report back so that I can get on the field in Texas and start in games,” said Hogue. “I love the sport and I want to be the best for my teammates.” 

Joseph Rubio, a football player at Middlebury College in Vermont is also using Zoom to virtually meet with his coaches. Him and his teammates continue to complete a workout program at home that involves body weight exercises and running

“We have not yet heard anything definitive about the status of our upcoming season or resuming classes in the fall,” said Rubio.  

COVID-19 has also impacted the recruitment process for schools. Without the ability to travel, coaches are now having to evaluate potential athletes through an entirely online experience. The NCAA has also extended the recruiting dead period through May 31 to allow schools more time. 

A senior and captain of the wrestling team at Tesoro High School, Jay Juarez has committed to Southern Oregon University for wrestling. He has been using Zoom and the GroupMe app to communicate with his coaches and future teammates. His freshman year of college   

“I have talked about this with my coach and he believes we will be back in school next fall and plan on having a wrestling season in the winter but there are no guarantees,” said Juarez. “He says the school will be taking action day by day to see.” 

Colleges and universities are looking to find a way to safely reopen campuses and deal with health issues before reinstating their athletic departments and allowing them to resume with their regular season. In the meantime, athletes continue to communicate virtually with their coaches and train from home.