Seasons of Change: How COVID-19 Altered the Path for Student-Athletes

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

Written by: Emily Grace from the Snowbird Ski Team and proud LVF Scholar

April 23, 2020

Emily Grace, Snowbird Ski Team & LVF Scholar

Your skis carve against the snow as you speed down the course, with the finish line in sight, hope in your heart, and the feeling of freedom in your soul. Out of nowhere, you hit a bump and the next thing you know you are tumbling through the air, confused about what is going to happen next and disoriented. You hit the ground hard, and reality hits harder. Emotions you truly cannot describe well up from deep inside of you and become overwhelming. The strongest being despair and utter disappointment for making it this far and being so close to the end, but having it ripped away from you without notice at the last possible moment. Athletes both young and old can relate to this feeling of despair, as their seasons abruptly ended this year due to COVID-19.

I am a young ski racer on the Snowbird Ski Team in Utah. My finals this season, Tri-Divisional Championships, were cancelled less than a week before I would be racing my heart out at them. This season was most disappointing to lose because I had tried so hard and fought against the adversity and challenges, with the help from the Sports Matter Scholarship from the Lindsey Vonn Foundation I received. I was so excited to learn I had received this scholarship from my lifelong hero and role model, Lindsey Vonn and what it would allow me to accomplish. I was devastated to learn that all the work I had put into this season with the training 5 days a week on and off the snow training had gone to waste, because I had no final place to prove the progress I had made. I had no chance to prove to myself that I had gotten over mental and physical barriers and had made improvements. Our seasons do not start with the first snowfall or the first run on-snow, but the moment the previous season has ended, and continue to condition off snow. 

Young athletes everywhere work year-round and pour their hearts and souls into the sport we love. To us young athletes, the sport we do is not only something to keep us entertained in our free time or to stay active, it is who we are.  It is our lifestyle, our reason, our hope, our freedom and our place in the world. If you take that away, you take away part of our identities. 

We train so often and spend so much time with our teammates, they become not only our best friends, but our families. If you cancel our training and practices, you take away the time with the people we cherish. For some of us, our sport is our stress relief, our time away from the insanity of life, and practice a place to get away from it all. It is our time to channel those emotions that  we had bottled up, and put it into something productive and healthy. Our sport is our chance to express ourselves and be around those who share our passions. Considering I am a ski racer, which is not a sport that everybody participates in, the only time I am with other ski racers is at training. My teammates are the only ones that understand the tremendous sacrifice and energy that we pour into our sport. With the cancellations due to COVID-19, young athletes have been stripped, for this season, of our opportunity to follow our sport related dreams, our place to get away from it all, our reason, and our place in the world.

In a way, this tragedy has brought athletes around the world closer together, in the light that we all have been cheated out of our opportunities. My mom said it best when she explained it as we are all grieving the loss of our seasons and the countless hours we have put in and are never going to get back. It is extremely difficult to explain the emotions during these trying times. Whenever I attempt to explain these emotions corresponding with these cancellations, people always say, “oh, don’t worry, this quarantine is only temporary, your training will be resumed, there will be more races, and think about the Olympians who got postponed.” Yes, we do understand that this unsettled time that we are in is temporary, but we never know how long temporary is, and eventually everything will resume, but for now, and until whoever knows when, we are sportless. True, there will be more matches, games, meets, and races, but they will never replace the ones that we have just missed out on. It is correct that our events can not be compared to those of an Olympian, but these sporting events are so important to young athletes and it keeps us going, and has always kept us trying. 

Without them, many of us are lost. No matter what anybody says, things will get better and life will resume, but for the moment, it is okay and important that we accept those feelings of anger at the world, disappointment, sadness, and fear, as long as we react to them positively.

Young athletes are not the only ones robbed of opportunities in these difficult times, students as well. All schools across America have been closed also due to COVID-19. Many schools have been transitioned to online learning, which has been stressful on not only the students, but the teachers also. I was talking to my teacher about the transition and how she felt about it, and students along with parents do not understand the extra stress on teachers this has been for them. They needed to learn an entirely new format of teaching, in a very short amount of time, as to not let their students get behind. They spend more time planning classes now, then when they did when in a classroom. They spend so much time making online worksheets and videos. They put so much time into different ways to keep their students on track, so they may be prepared for whatever next year has to offer.