Locked Down: Being a Student-Athlete During COVID-19

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Emily Gray, Virginia Tech
Emily Gray has been rehabbing a torn ACL as she waits to resume her Virginia Tech soccer career. (Virginia Tech athletics photography)

Emily Gray is a rising junior on the Virginia Tech Women’s Soccer team.  She has started all 32 games of her career before an ACL injury ended her sophomore season.  One of the top players in the nation in her age group, Gray has most recently represented the United States at the U-20 level.

For everyone around the world, the last few months have certainly tested us in more ways than we could have imagined.

Collectively as a nation, we are struggling to process the pandemic and the additional circumstances that struck us so suddenly. With that being said, I believe the unknown future is what scares us the most, which includes the absence of sports. 

As a student-athlete, I can say without a doubt that every one of us across the country has been affected by COVID-19 in some fashion.

Whether it is the winter sports who lost out on a championship run, the spring sports whose seasons ended before they truly started, or the fall sports who have no clue what their season will look like, everyone has found this period of time to be challenging.  No matter how many Zoom calls you have with your team, the reality is that nothing can replace what could have been.

When I came home in March for Spring Break, I had no idea that I would still be here at the start of June. I was anxiously planning on getting back to Blacksburg as quickly as possible before everything transpired.

The Monday after spring break, I was supposed to do functional testing for the next stage of my ACL recovery. After not being involved in a practice since September, I was craving to finally be part of the team again toward the end of the spring season.

Little did any of us know that we were going to be on our own for the next three months and that school was going to be online the remainder of the semester.

No gyms, no athletic trainers, no fields, no coaches, no professors – the list goes on.

However, our entire athletic department has maintained communication and continued to give us the tools to do everything virtually. My team specifically has taken part in ‘Leadership Development’ meetings every Thursday with different themes to develop our culture in preparation for the fall.

In some of those LD sessions, we learned new things about each other and heard from some of our highly respected alumni. On top of that, we’ve had film analysis to continue developing our understanding of the game, and we’ve met on Zoom for player-organized technical training sessions.

Many of us are independent, but we are also used to being on campus with a structured day-to-day environment. When quarantine initially began, I found it hard to balance my time because it felt like there was so much more of it. I thrive on living the typical student-athlete lifestyle where I maintain an organized routine with little excess time on my hands. While it hasn’t been easy, nothing is ever easy for student-athletes. We are used to being thrown outside of our comfort zone and rising to the occasion, no matter the adversity we may face.

Through my time away from the game due to injury, from Virginia Tech and from my teammates, I’ve learned that it’s important to focus on the things you can control.  For the game, I only need a ball to get better. Without the ball at my feet, I’m still confident that I can grow in different ways that will benefit me on and off the field.

Over the past few months, I’ve been inspired by other Hokies who are putting in the work to be at their best for whenever they are called upon. Many do not have access to the equipment they need to perform at a high level, but are still finding a way.

I’ve seen football players building their own squat racks and pushing trucks, swimmers practicing their stroke off of tables, lacrosse girls improving their wall stick skills and soccer players checking in on social media with juggling tricks.

Pandemic or not, we do it because we love it. I’ve tried my best to hold myself accountable during a time when it’s easy to lose sight of your goals.  We know that the ‘VT’ follows us wherever we go, no matter who is watching. If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught me, it’s to never take that for granted.

I don’t have any answers as to what the fall will look like, but I do know that I miss Blacksburg with all my heart and our team will be ready to compete at a high level whenever we step on the pitch. 

In the meantime, I hope all the Hokies out there are staying safe and healthy. We can’t wait to start jumping with you all again!

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10 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Loved reading this! Great attitude and a true Hokie! I will be rooting for her the rest of her career.

  2. Thanks for giving us all a perspective we would not ordinarily have the privilege of having.

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