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Staying Connected with Your Teams During the Pandemic

By Lisa Myran-Schutte, CAA on May 13, 2020 hst Print

There is so much happening in our country – and throughout the world – right now, but there is not much happening when it comes to high school activities. There is a definite sense of stillness when in the gyms or on the fields. The auditorium has an eerie feeling of wanting a production, but all it has is silence. And when you turn on the news, there is nothing about your high school and the accomplishments that are happening.

Coaching a sports team is dependent on actual games and scores. Many would say the whole point of sports is for the competition, the adrenaline rush at the start of the game, finding out who wins and who loses.

However, another group would say the whole point of coaching is to influence the lives of youth and create those relationships between coach and athlete and athlete to athlete.

Sports are definitely so much more than winning and losing. Sports and other activities prepare you for pressure situations, working together with peers, accepting that you will not always get what you want, and that working hard is the reward. Very simply, high school activity programs teach young people about life.

So, during this time when there are no sports or activities and events have been cancelled, what can be salvaged from this spring season? Relationships. Support. Caring.

As everyone is muddling their way through a new way of coaching, it really begins with the basics of education-based athletics. Being a transformational coach is really the only option right now – transforming the lives of young people when there is no scoreboard to determine the winner or loser. This time period takes away the level of play of who is the best player and who is struggling, and it provides coaches the opportunity to model and share how to get through the unknown.

During this shutdown of schools, maintaining contact has been the key. Some coaches are choosing emails. Some have texted or made a TikTok. Others have used tweets and posts from coaches to players. The reality is that the varsity team has been playing for 13 years with minimal time between sports. All of a sudden, the adrenaline is taken away. There is no wind in the sails to practice or to lift weights. It is so important for coaches to stay connected with their athletes from a mental perspective.

Some teams have been very creative to continue team bonding, such as:

  • Baseball players made a TikTok of playing catch, hitting, grounding of a baseball where each person did an action and one team member compiled the individual actions into a TikTok. This has been done with a multitude of sports and continues to be watched by many. News stations have shown some of the better TikToks done by sports teams.
  • A track team still had spaghetti night. However, the athletes had to cook for their families. As the spaghetti finished cooking, a Zoom meeting took place during the athlete’s family meal.
  • Players have created pizza parties via Zoom, whereby each person on the team has pizza at his or her own house and joins a Zoom session. This has also been taken over by the players themselves.
  • Coaches have provided workouts for the days and weeks. There is nothing worse than no practices when you have been going to practices day in and day out. These workouts allow for kids to feel needed and to show that the coaches care about them.
  • Players participate holding signs of words that create a quote to encourage others. This is many times happening during a Zoom session and a picture is taken and is posted on social media.
  • #BeTheLight has been a way for teams to feel connected even at their own homes with the inclusion of turning on their porch lights. Different schools across the country turn on stadium lights to honor athletes and seniors one night a week.
  • Coaches are providing skill sessions on how to swing a bat. They are linking YouTube videos to their athletes and encouraging them to get exercise.
  • Coaches and team members have mailed letters to their teammates. There is nothing quite like receiving a personal letter in the mail.

Overall, the opportunity for a coach to become a more caring, motivating role model is now. Each coach has the chance to really connect with students on a personal level (as personal as virtual can be). What a coach did during the pandemic will really set him or her up for the following year by already establishing those beginning relationships. The coach has shown support and caring with being there for the cancellation and continues to send words of encouragement. He or she has had to put himself or herself out there to reach the kids with words. Each action is so much more deliberate when it is virtual. It is so much more purposeful because if there is not a purpose, then there should not be an email or a Zoom session. Teams are staying connected, and it will be fun to see how the closeness of some teams improves their play next season.