Seasons of Change: How COVID-19 Altered the Path for Student-Athletes
Written by: Emily Grace from the Snowbird Ski Team and proud LVF Scholar
April 23, 2020
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.
Students have taken a hard hit during this time we are living in. Seniors have missed out on their graduations and other countless opportunities. However, seniors are not the only ones missing out. All students have been cheated out of things that they were looking forward to all year, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Elementary students have missed field trips and the fifth graders transition into middle school. To us, these may seem like trifle events, but to them, it is a huge loss, and we have to learn to respect and value that. For example, my school does a graduation for the eighth graders with gowns and a ceremony. Because of the school being shut down, I will not be able to go through that experience with my classmates. In zoology, we would have been doing dissections next week. It is a small event, but I have been looking forward to that since the start of the semester. Students everywhere have missed out on in-school events, no matter how small.
Online school has not been easy for students or parents either. Students must also figure out the new softwares and systems. Some students are better at working on their own time and schedules, and others work more efficiently in a classroom, with a teacher, on a set schedule. I am most definitely a student who works far better in a classroom with a teacher. I am not very good at teaching myself, and I need a teacher to help explain certain concepts to me. Parents are thrust into the roles of “substitute teachers” and try to help their students with concepts they do not even remember learning. Learning ability is not the only thing that has tension on it, also the sanity of people. I know it is not only me, and being inside stuck with my family with no way out has been trying on my patience. My little brother has gotten on my nerves countless times, and I on his. We still get along, we just need time away from each other to cool off and get a break, and that is difficult to do at this time. We just all need to stay strong and remember we are still human. It is stressful on all people teaching, learning, guiding, and helping all students from home.
COVID-19 has pulled apart communities. It has made people be afraid of other people and want to stay as far apart from them as possible. It is total chaos. It has demolished the hopes of people and replaced them with fear. It has ended sport seasons and education for this year. It has cancelled so many things that we will never get back. Times may seem dark and that we will never recover from the collapsed economy or fear of other people. We are living through events that our kids, kids will be reading about in their history books. Things will get better, the sun will shine again, we just have to wait out the darkness. We just need to remember that we are all connected and all are living through the same difficult times. Keep your friends close and your families closer. Stay strong, and keep your eyes to the sun, so you won’t see the shadows.