After months of being cooped up at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Temple University student-athletes and coaches returned to campus for voluntary team workouts throughout July and August. While they were away, they adjusted both physically and mentally.
Temple’s workout facilities were closed during the summer, which posed a challenge for the school’s athletic trainers and athletic mental health professionals.
Tim Teefy, assistant athletic director of Olympic sports performance, set up voluntary “quarantine workouts” for all Temple sports, except football, after sports were forced to pause over the summer, he said.
Teefy sent players a list of drills requiring minimal equipment they could do at home. He wasn’t allowed to communicate over video with the athletes while they were doing the workouts due to NCAA regulations, but could answer questions they had after their workout, he said.
“Obviously different states and areas have been under different situations on what’s available and open,” Teefy said. “Can they get to a field or track? Are they running in their neighborhood?”
Teefy emphasized to student-athletes their competition isn’t gaining an advantage during this downtime, as many across the country are dealing with similar health and safety protocols, he said.
“We never really preach that if somebody else is doing something every day, we got to make sure that we are,” Teefy added. “In the back of our mind, we’re always thinking what others are doing, but we’ve realized that this is a unique situation.”
On July 22, The American Athletic Conference announced fall Olympic sports would be delayed until at least Sept. 1. The decision gave more time for the conference to allow “member institutions additional time to implement protocols for a safe return to competition,” according to a conference press release.
Men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country and volleyball were all affected by the decision.
Stephany Coakley, senior associate athletic director of mental health, wellness and performance, kept in contact with student-athletes during the summer to help athletes with “quarantine fatigue,” she said.
Quarantine fatigue is defined “as exhaustion associated with the new restrictive lifestyle that’s been adopted to slow the spread of COVID-19,” according to a report by Massachusetts General Hospital. Symptoms include feeling tense, irritable or anxious, changes in eating or sleeping habits, loss of motivation or reduced productivity.
When campus shut down in March, there was “a pretty significant decrease” in athletics counseling services, Coakley said. Toward the end of the semester, she saw an uptick in student-athletes wanting to receive counseling.
“Everybody’s dealing with it differently,” Coakley added. “Some student-athletes were really stressed out about online classes. And some international students had to wake up around two in the morning to go to class. That’s a huge stressor just to go to class. For others, it was not being with their friends and their community even though they were with their family.”
Coakley thought if she made athletes realize others were having a tough time it could help with them handle the stress, she said.
“It was almost as if they believed they were the only people dealing with this,” Coakley said. “So while you had to start online instruction, some people had to start online work. There’s been a disruption in your parents’ lives, your cousin’s lives, your coaches’ lives.”
Teefy and Coakley agreed the uncertainty of the pandemic is the most frustrating thing to deal with, but they’re making sure to keep a positive attitude.
“Let’s focus on what we can accomplish today,” Teefy said. “And let’s make sure that we’re doing it in the best interest of our student-athletes.”