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The Big Dance is Right around the Corner... (By: Devon Bonnemere)

The Big Dance is right around the corner. The crowds, the high energy, it’s your senior year and now it’s time to leave it all on the floor, one game at a time. You had goals to make it farther than the year before. The Big Dance is where history is made, upsets happen, where you survive and advance. That’s right it’s time for March Madness and you’ve waited for you whole career for this. No matter the Division, it’s a time of year that all athletes and fans look forward to. We are a few weeks away from Selection Sunday and I’ve got my blank brackets copied.

I remember being in this position back in 2003. My coach giving the team a pep talk--that every game is potentially your last game. But unfortunately, you never get to play. No, not because of an injury or any fault of your own, but there is virus that has begun to take over the country. Its unexplainable and even harder to understand what’s really happening, but it’s all over the news and everything is slowly starting to shut down. Your school and the NCAA share initially that the tournament will still go on, fans will not be present. You tell yourself, ‘Ok I still get to play’, but your bummed at the same time. Then you hear the tournament has been canceled. Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you found out? Colleges and Universities are slowly closing. ‘Wait, now I have to pack my stuff and head home?’ You realize, you’ll never get that chance. Now you think of your last practice, your last game and the last time you were around your teammates.

But now you’re home and getting restless. You’re feeling more and more isolated and start to feel some anxiety and now some depression; and you’re not sure where to turn. Your outlets have been stripped from you without even a discussion. Not only was Basketball’s March Madness affected, but all college athletes in the midst of their season.

Several athletes from West Texas A&M University shared their feelings upon finding out their season was over. Some shared feelings of sadness, confusion, and losing their eligibility. On a road trip a team was told “you can play this one game and have to come back because the season will be canceled after that” The athlete continued, “the game felt like it had no meaning at all, win or lose we’d be done. There’s no shot for tomorrow.” Another athlete explained, “This was my job; track was my job and it was just taken away from me.” (WTAthletics, 2020).

Being in the program has shown me how dedicated we are to the profession which allows us to be more engaged and committed towards athletes on all competitive levels. While this truly is unprecedented times, the Alliance of Social Workers in Sports has risen to the occasion. They have created several COVID-Resources, including self-care tips for athletes, ways to assist vulnerable college athletes and a list of members providing telehealth services across the country. The well-being of all athletes continues to be an on-going discussion, specifically how we as social workers, can be an instrumental fixture in their lives, and while there are athletes that may not have necessarily experienced mental health issues before, some have begun to express symptoms and they are ready to talk about it. I hope they know we are here.

There’s so much pride in being a student-athlete. As a former student-athlete, you’ve spend years honing your skills, spent countless hours in the car traveling to different cities and states so you can have bragging rights defending your titles. But most importantly, your teammates and coaches become your family. My hope is that this pandemic sheds light on the role that Alliance of Social Workers in Sports can have for its athletes, not only during this time, but in the future, especially as the state of sports is still uncertain. They need our leadership, guidance and support more now than ever.

References: WTAthletics (2020, April 2). WT student-athletes talk about impact of COVID-19 [Video] Youtube: https://youtu.be/fF6SKTWEAXI

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