Helping students who miss the normalcy of sports and activities they love

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of school sports and all extracurriculars remains unclear. Many activities have been canceled this school year, and even for those that will resume in some capacity, athletes will likely compete in empty stadiums, musicians will play in empty rooms and actors will perform to empty seats. 

For students at every level who work hard to develop their skills and miss the normalcy of participating in these extracurriculars, it can be difficult to deal with these changes. James Houle is a sports psychologist who works with college athletes at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He says for these students, their daily routines and identities are deeply rooted in their sport.

“If you’re in the marching band or you’re the varsity football quarterback, whatever it is that you’re involved in, your investment in what you’re doing is very high,” said Houle. “And to think that your participation in those activities can be compromised in any way feels very scary.”

Houle recommends students follow the three S’s to help them through these uncertain times:

  • Stay present – Rather than worrying about what you’re missing out on, think about what you can do right now. Houle says when we live our lives day to day we tend to be happier, even if we’re in a difficult situation.
  • Shift your focus – You can’t change the current state of the world, but you can control how you react to it while finding ways to continue to move toward your goals. Try doing some solo workouts and practices or finding another activity to focus on and fill your time.
  • Seek connections – Talking about your struggles with other students, coaches, parents or counselors can help you realize that you are not alone. At Ohio State, sports teams continue to meet virtually and Houle and his team often join them to ensure that they are getting the support they need. 

Experts say even if you’re missing after school practices, it’s a good idea to keep a schedule to prevent these changes from affecting other areas of your life, such as school work. If you notice changes in your sleep pattern, appetite or general anxiousness, it’s important to speak with a counselor who can help you find ways to cope.