For student athletes, quarantine was their worst nightmare. Being confined indoors left many without the proper space or setup to practice. It felt like a fence that had many consequences if you tried to go over it. The fence got even taller as April and May approached. The restrictions weren’t easing up. For coaches this was also a tricky and difficult time. Seeing their students miss opportunities to bond with each other and train in the gym with coaches. Events being canceled and rescheduled only to be canceled again.
Meet Karim Mcdonald, a coach for the Women’s Basketball team at Green River College and a youth basketball coach. For Karim, quarantine was quite different. When his schedule was normal he’d be at the gym or practicing with athletes for skill development. Being indoors was a challenge because he was an on-the-go type of person and missed the interaction. As the first month passed, he knew he needed to set a game plan especially for his college team. He would speak to assistants every other day and meet with athletes via zoom. He knew the struggles that lie ahead.
With physical activity comes mental responsibilities. Athletes focus so much on the physical aspect of sports rather than the cerebral part of it. Quarantine has made an impact on that. Since many are unable to practice, mental training has been the main focus for these past months. For college, Karim did just this. He dove deep into understanding how self doubt can impede success. For his youth athletes, he gave them drills but geared students to focus on being positive. He asked them why they chose to play basketball to further their thinking.
Athlete communication was important for Karim. He met with D1/D2 coaches through webinars where they would talk about strategies and hiring people to do workouts at home. Or leading basketball workouts like dribbles and drills. One workout they had was the “zoom hoop workout.” Athletes would put laptops on chairs and trainers would demonstrate. They would also practice handling without the hoop. These workouts were beneficial to players and about 20 people would follow these workouts routinely. However, Karim found it hard to communicate since some players were in different time zones, graduating, or taking time off. Also, some athletes in Idaho weren’t affected as much since they didn’t have as many cases of covid-19. Seniors additionally found themselves confused and watching more netflix.
Quarantine has not only made Karim focus on basketball but has given him more time to spend with his family and relax-especially after his nasal surgery. Many of the players of his teams experienced ankle and shoulder injuries before quarantine. With all this time, they can heal slowly and do stretches and exercises that will get them ready for the next season. In addition to relaxing, Karim has learned to understand himself more and connect with others. Now, he can catch up on shows and have tv marathons without any hesitation. With that said, he finds motivation in trying to be the best coach. This means there are no excuses and that there are different philosophies for on and off the court. It’s a time for growing and listening to others. He has taken into consideration that every athlete goes at their own pace and learns differently. Some can handle being yelled at while others need a different approach. It is important to have an athlete journal where coaches and players can monitor their activity. There is good communication this way and no misunderstandings. It leaves the athlete with ways to improve in a healthy way.
With covid-19 dictating our lives, it is easy to think that life will never be back to normal. That there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Karim sees that light at the end of the tunnel and thinks this is a learning experience…not just in public sanitation but for all aspects of life. Paraphrased Karim states:
Know there’s a brighter day, you get to share stories, tell your parents how you feel about things, you won’t get this time back ATHLETICALLY, but you can share more time with fam/friends, tug of war, if you get pulled you can pull right back in your direction, look forward to brighter days, it’s not the end, it’s a small part of history.
Everything is about perspective and how we look at things.Is the glass half empty or half full? Karim ended the interview with some words of wisdom paraphrased:
There’s a way for us to come out of this and learn a lot, way for us to be positive and have more than just brighter days but also ways to be successful,
My dad says no one thinks of what will happen to them – parents are careful about things like seatbelts, no one thought sports would be canceled, no one thought it would happen to them ever, so value what you have in front of you
Understand how to cherish the moments and be positive, there are opportunities to be more understanding about what we value, reevaluating what we value/prioritize.