Struggles of being a student-athlete during COVID-19

By Briana Garcia | Contributor

Being a student-athlete is difficult. We have to worry about academics, performance, health and the list goes on. But think about adding this pandemic to these stresses and how much they can impact a student-athlete mentally and physically.

It has been a long and challenging journey for many student-athletes during COVID-19. As a track and field athlete, COVID-19 has created a challenging and humbling experience.

I have gone through 31 days of quarantine, with 10 days having the virus and symptoms. One of my symptoms was having low oxygen levels, and when I would go on a walk, it felt as if I just ran a 5K marathon. This was when I realized how serious COVID-19 is.

I am a young and healthy adult with no underlying health conditions, but this virus took a toll on me. Think about others who are older and or those with health conditions. It scared me to think that, but that is the truth. COVID-19 is a lot stronger and more dangerous than some people think.

Physically, the virus was difficult to bounce back from. Running takes a lot of energy, so I knew going back into exercising would not be easy. It took me about three weeks to finally feel like myself again. In some workouts, I would feel on top of the world, and in others, I could barely catch my breath or walk after completing the exercise.

Luckily, I was still in the off-season when my body was trying to get back in shape. I started thinking about other student-athletes who were in season and maybe had to go through the same process as me. It takes a lot of determination and a positive attitude to get back into your sport, especially if you’re in season. I give kudos to all the athletes who got back into their sport and competed.

The virus did not only affect me physically but also mentally. Social interaction and running were things that kept me going every day and helped me feel stress-free. Knowing that I was not going to be able to do those things for a while put me in a depressive state.

According to a Sports Illustrated article, in the fall of 2020, compared to the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a rise in anxiety, mental exhaustion, hopelessness and depression in student-athletes.

Most people believe that student-athletes put their sport before their academics, but that is not the case for many student-athletes. School is very important to me. I enjoy learning new things every day, and school keeps my mind active.

My mental stress increased when I started to think about not being in person for class. Would I miss any key information? Will my professors record the lectures for me? The questions in my head were endless and not helping my situation.

This was not just happening to me but also to many other student-athletes as well.

It is important for student-athletes to feel understood and heard when it comes to this pandemic. Many people do not understand the hardships that student-athletes have to endure during COVID-19. My story is just one of countless others.

I encourage you to have sympathy for student-athletes who go through quarantine. Whether that be your student, classmate or friend, it is great for more people to understand the struggles behind a student-athlete during COVID-19.

Briana is a junior journalism major from Houston.