Pandemic Effects Mental Health of Student-Athletes 

Since March 2020, the Coronavirus Pandemic has been an ongoing series of unfortunate events. From social distancing to lockdowns of schools and businesses, the coronavirus has taken over our lives. 

Sports are central in the lives of athletes. Sports teach social skills and development, giving a healthy way to relieve and cope with stress and everyday life problems. From Little League to National Leagues, the Coronavirus has forced athletic seasons to be canceled. According to a recent study from Stanford University and Strava, a social network of exercise enthusiasts, “22.5% of professional athletes reported feeling down or depressed on more than half of the days of the week in the period between mid-March and August of last year, while COVID-19 restrictions on athletic training and competition were in place, compared to 3.9% of athletes reporting the same struggles earlier this year before the pandemic hit. That’s an increase of 477%.”   

It’s not just professional athletes affected by the pandemic. Even though Northwood students can train with their coaches and teams nearly every day, they have had very little competition in the form of games against outside opponents. Student-athletes at Northwood are suffering. Senior Rachel Hinkley says, “I know that Covid has effected us all, but it’s really hard not being able to play the sport you love. Watching others get to play while we can’t breaks my heart, and while I know it’s for our safety, it’s really hard having to sit on the sidelines when I’ve been playing hockey for fifteen years. While we can’t play games, I’m happy to be with my girls to keep me sane during these hard times.”   

Sports are a type of therapy and the bonds built by teammates are like a family’s connection, which is just one of the many reasons the game is loved by Rachel and millions of other athletes in the world.  Senior Ashlyn McGrath says, “not playing games makes me feel like I’m missing out on my senior year/season.” Throughout your hockey career you look forward to things like your senior night. It only comes once, and for some of us, it’s not coming at all. 

Northwood’s school psychologist, Ms. Tara Wright agrees that sports are important to the emotional well-0being of athletes.  “Diminished opportunity for sports has taken a toll on student athletes’ social emotional health during the pandemic,” said WrightAthletes derive multiple benefits from sports, which affect their mental wellbeing – physical fitness, goal setting and achievement, focus and mental training, and the social benefits that come from team sports. Even with more individual achievement sports such as ski racing or ski jumping, the group training aspect provides student athletes with significant social benefits,” she added 

Wright also noted that online learning exacerbates the isolation that students-athletes feel. “The Covid pandemic has left student athletes to adjust to online or hybrid learning for periods of time, reduce their ability to spend time with family and friends, and made athletic training and competitions fewer or altered to ensure social distancing,” said WrightThe teenage years are a time when students form significant bonds with their peers,” she addedWhile Covid has affected all teens by limiting their ability to socialize, the effect on teams has been particularly challenging.”   

It’s safe to say this is a very challenging time for everyone, especially the studentathlete population 

Photos of Northwood student-athletes enjoying the social benefits of athletic training and competition. (Source: The Mirror)

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