Student-Athletes’ pandemic mental health perspective - Part One

Locals discuss how pandemic cancelations and delays of sports has impacted them.
Student-Athlete mental health- part one
Student-Athlete mental health- part one
Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 7:53 PM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - A young football player from Brunswick took his own life last month. The pandemic has impacted everyone. So, we thought we should talk with some teenagers, and the people who work with them every day, to hear their perspective about the mental health side of being a student-athlete during the pandemic.

“We’re looking at other states being able to play sports and have playoffs. It’s really just devastating for us,” says Orono senior Jason Desisto, “A loss of motivation for a lot of athletes.”

After a spring with no high school sports.

“I didn’t even know if we were going to have a season,” says Brewer senior cheerleader Abby Sargent, “definitely as a senior that was really hard.”

Subsequent delays to the fall season which eventually happened.

“It is taking so much more away from kids than it has adults,” says Orono athletic director Mike Archer.

Constant change of plans really weighed on kids of all ages. But in particular, high school kids.

“Confusing, frustrating, angry, sad to have all of that, I mean all of it, disrupted,” says sports psychologist Dr. Christine Selby.

It shouldn’t be surprising it’s hard on kids who are doing their best to make the best out of a difficult situation.

“I wasn’t sure if any girls would even come if there was a season. 21 girls came and we took everybody and we had a great season,” says Sargent, “I was very proud as a captain to be on a team of girls, and underclassmen, that were so happy to still be part of a team.”

The outdoor fall sports season did allow many to feel somewhat normal.

“Just competing again,” says Desisto, “In real competition with winners.

But, most winter sports move indoors causing debate over safety.

“As long as they can have that contact with each other, they tend to stay more in a positive mindset,” says Old Town girls basketball coach Heather Richards, “At first, when things kept getting pushed back, they were getting pretty discouraged.”

Delays caused by concerns of controlling COVID-19 spread.

“When things change as often as they are changing, that’s harmful to mental well-being for a lot of people,” says Dr. Selby, “Some people thrive on that kind of change, but most of us expect and in many cases kind of require routine.”

Practices finally resumed for many schools last week and for more schools this week.

“I think all of us have been sort of grasping for some level of normalcy,” says Orono head boys basketball coach Ed Kohtala, “There comes a point when you want to hear sneakers squeaking and balls bouncing.”

Games started Monday with many schools resuming play by Friday.

“There are people in every community they get the basketball schedule for the school and they circle those dates on their calendars,” says Brewer athletic director David Utterback.

Fears of change or cancelation still remain.

“Right now I don’t even have a good answer,” says Utterback, “They’re all bad because I don’t even have an answer at all.”

“To offer as much positivity and exhaust every possible thing that we can do,” says Archer, “before we have to look at some of the kids, or all the kids, and say we can’t do this.”

The bi-weekly colors of the Maine Department of Education counties can halt sports if Coronavirus spread rises too rapidly.

“Fridays used to be really fun days,” says Archer, “but you know they’re filled with stress right now because you know we’re hanging on a color.”

These seniors already know this winter sports season won’t end with traditional championship events.

“Having the season in general,” says Sargent, “Whether it’s in person, or we just videotape it and we still get to interact with people, either way, I am happy to be doing it..”

“Just knowing that we won’t have a tournament. It’s pretty hard to cope with because a lot of us don’t know how to cope with things like that,” says Desisto, “Sports is a lot of kids coping skills.”

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