The Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been easy for everyone, but we, as WVU fans, should be thankful for what the college athletes have gone through in the last calendar year.
“There are kids that go out all the time. You see it on their Snapchat and Instagram stories and they all are having that fun time,” WVU basketball forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. said. “It’s just one of those sacrifices we have to make because at the end of the day we all have a goal, which is to win a National Championship.”
Matthews was apart of the experience of going to the Big 12 Tournament last March, just to get sent right back to Morgantown without playing any games. Within 24 hours, both the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament were canceled, leaving no closure on the basketball season for the Mountaineers.
As the winter and spring sports teams were left with heartbreak, there were opportunities like football, women’s soccer and volleyball to step up to the plate to test the waters during a global pandemic.
All student-athletes returned to campus in July to resume workouts and to get ready for their upcoming seasons. Obviously, there were some setbacks that came with losing half of the summer.
“It was just starting all over– the strength, the conditioning and even their skills because a lot of them didn’t have gyms to go to,” WVU volleyball coach Reed Sunahara explained. “So, they did stuff on their own.”
For about a month, the fall sports were practicing with the unknown. There were a lot of questions about the fall sports and how they were going to be able to finish their seasons.
The season being completed was the biggest hurdle to overcome, but playing without fans was a leap.
“It’s going to be tough for some people, but at the end of the day you’ve gotta bring your own juice,” WVU defensive tackle Darius Stills said in August. “The people that don’t bring their energy are going to get exposed and the people that do bring their own energy are going to be the ones doing the best.”
Despite the challenges, football, women’s soccer and volleyball all completed their seasons, and all had successful years.
Neal Brown’s group went 6-4, going undefeated at home and winning the Liberty Bowl to end the year. Women’s soccer finished the fall season 7-2, at one point winning five-straight matches and competing for the Big 12 Championship. Volleyball was more competitive in conference play, as they swept No. 10 Kansas. Now Sunahara will look to play non-conference games this spring to compete for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Now, it’s the winter and spring sports turns again to overcome COVID and complete their seasons.
College athletes all-around the country has been dealing with mental health issues this year.
As soon as the athletes returned to campus, testing and isolation had begun. Players were essentially only able to see their teammates while getting tested sometimes up to three times a week.
No family. No friends outside of their teammates. Minimal socialization.
The athletes tried to make the most of it. The basketball team would have players host the team at their apartments to eat pizza and watch sports.
Teammates quickly turned from friends to family, as they only saw each other.
“We just have to be in tune with it (mental health),” WVU football coach Neal Brown stated in the summer. “Probably anybody who has nearly 100 people on their roster or in their company or whatever, there are individuals within that organization who have struggled with this. We’re not immune to that.”
“We’ve had staff members who have struggled with this. We have had players struggle with it, but I think we’ve been able to help to this point, but it’s an ongoing process,” Brown added.
As we approach the one year mark of the pandemic, let’s take the time to thank our student-athletes for the sacrifices that they make for West Virginia University.