BOISE — COVID-19 changed student-athletes lives drastically. Seasons were suspended and then canceled. Senior recognition nights won't happen, and for some, their seasons not only ended but so did their careers.
"At first, it was all talk about the physical health, like staying in shape, but what we have come to realize is the potential mental health effect on all of us," said Director of Athletics Performance and Psychology, Stephanie Donaldson. "We got together and talked about the grief process and what that looks like. Like how you find purpose and meaning outside of sports ad mist a pandemic and so much uncertainty."
With the athletes, Donaldson is focusing on four basic principles. First, making sure they are staying connected, looking at all of this as an opportunity to implement positive changes in their lives, focusing on what they can control, and lastly, remembering the why or the greater purpose as to why all sports are canceled.
"I would say, be patient with yourself and extend yourself grace," said Donaldson. "Your process of dealing with all your emotions is not going to be the same as your teammates or a friend or even your family. First and foremost, talk with people. Whatever is going on in your head, get it out."
The teams are finding new and creative ways to make sure they are staying connected virtually and checking in on each other.
"Every Monday our coach talks to us through Facebook Live, and then right now we are doing a challenge," said BroncoBOLD Chair and women's soccer player, Kennedi Paul. "You cook something and post it on Facebook, and then you tag the next person, and they try to beat you out. And it's a fun competition that keeps us all together."
The BroncoBOLD, a student-athlete mental health awareness initiative, is also stepping in to help athletes during this time of isolation.
"We've been posting things on social media, especially since nobody is in town anymore. But, reaching out to each sport and to know everyone is still staying connected and everyone is doing OK," said Paul. "We're making little business cards to send out that have some breathing techniques and meditations just to keep your mental health in check."
Both Paul and Donaldson encourage anyone struggling during this time to reach out and ask for help.