Athletes focus on mental health during coronavirus closures

Sports

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — We’re all in a new normal: away from work, out of school, told not to leave our homes unless we have to. But how we cope with all the new guidelines and social limitations can be very different.

A senior on Grand Valley State University’s basketball team, Jenn DeBoer was already mentally preparing for the end of her college career.

“I knew that once the season ended, it was just going to be weird with how much time I had on my hands and just the freedom of not having anything,” DeBoer, daughter of Storm Team 8 meteorologist Terri DeBoer, said.

Like many, she’s now confined to a home work space.

“I almost feel like I have less freedom,” DeBoer said.

That’s a tricky mindset for everyone.

“For many of us, the sport will be there when we get back,” Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital sports psychologist Dr. Eddie O’Connor was quick to point out. “There are some people that will lose things that it’s not going to go back to normal.”

Kent City senior basketball standout Eli Carlson, 17, could very well fall into that category.

“There’s still a part of me that says hopefully it can return somehow, someway,” he said.

His senior season is still technically on hold, but he wonders if he’ll walk for graduation, let alone lace it up one more time with his teammates.

“As a senior, you want to leave it all on the court and give it all you have. Having that taken from you unexpectedly is hard,” Carlson said. “I think it’s unfortunate when people will be like, ‘Well, look on the bright side,’ or ‘Quickly, let’s switch to the positive.'”

The flip side may be that athletes like Carlson and DeBoer could find it a little easier to cope because of all the mental exercise that’s accompanied their physical training over the years.

“How do we use that now? Why have we been doing all of this work to be mentally tough and overcome adversity? Now is the time to use it,” Carlson said.

“This definitely is a huge thing you can’t control,” DeBoer added. “I can control my attitude and perspective about it. So I definitely think sports have prepared me for that in that sense.”

“We can still work out. We can still run. We can still have teammates. We can still support each other. Does that make up for the loss of a championship? Heck, no,” O’Connor said. “Remember why you do your sport. It may have been for a particular competition, but you also do it for a number of other reasons. Those things are not affected by the coronavirus. So how do you do it for those reasons instead of the structure or plan you had had?”

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