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Autumn Johnson | October 13, 2020

First day of basketball practice: Players' mental health and well-being playing through COVID

First day of basketball practice: Players' mental health and well-being playing through COVID

NCAA women's basketball teams are transitioning from preseason workouts to their first day of practice on Wednesday, Oct. 14. 

Student athletes have been adjusting to the new norms and major changes of the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 — like preseason workouts, different schedule formats and more. 

The differences depend on the schools and conferences. Clemson forward Mikayla Hayes and Hatford's Jordan McClemore, who are both Student-Athlete Engagement Group representatives for their conferences, shared with the immediate changes they've already seen in their preseason. 

"[Our program] put us in small pods, and you can only work with people in your small pods, so it's very different from working with your whole team,"McClemore said. "The four people you workout with you see every day, so I think that was the biggest adjustment for me and my team."

SAEG: NCAA DI women's basketball Student-Athlete Engagement Group formed

So far for Hayes and the Clemson women's basketball team, they have only been able to conduct individual and position workouts rather than preparing with the entire team. 

"We haven't had a lot of time to actually work out with each other, so it's a little different when it comes to working out with our teammates," Hayes said. "In the weight room, we're not all in there to cheer each other on. So we've had to find ways to get through workouts a little differently. So, I know we're excited to start practice with that." 

Hayes shared with that if one player team receives a positive test, then everyone on the roster must be quarantined for 14 days. 

Teams are going the extra mile to do their part to ensure the safety of student-athletes during the season, but one of the biggest concerns amongst student athletes are being around other college students and competing against other teams, in that everyone is taking serious precautions as well. 

"Being at college is so much different, because we have all of these rules enforced from our college and not even from a basketball standpoint," McLemore said. "We are trying to stay safe, but we have hybrid classes, so we're going to some classes. It's kind of scary to have that risk of coming back with people who aren't on your team and doing the same things as you every day as you see. [...] We just want to make sure that we're safe, and that the teams we're playing are safe, too. It's hard to know what other teams are doing, because we're not on campus with you. I think for us that's our biggest concern." 

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COVID testing, bubble atmospheres, being quarantined and the possibility of not going home during the holidays are all factors to consider in the impact of players' mental health during the 2020-21 season.

Schools have implemented resources for student-athletes to ensure their physical and mental well-being. But the most important thing Hayes and McLemore shared with us is that their teams are looking to lean on each other through the adversities while they work towards the Nov. 25 start date. 

"Our coach has been serious about going about it like it's a regular season," Hayes said. "We're training like nothing is different. I would say the one thing with us is that we don't have a scout team. We can't bring in regular students into practice with us, so it's important to go really hard on each other in practice and just keep up with the competitive aspect of it. All we have is each other to train and get ready, so it's just the mental part and how hard we can work up until tip-off." 

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