by GRACE GEIST
Following the March 12 announcement from Drake University’s athletic director that all sports practices and competitions would be cancelled for the upcoming spring 2020 season, the university is offering additional resources to student-athletes to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Drake’s athletic department wants to make the health and safety of their athletes a priority.
“Danielle Green, the director of the Drake University Student Counseling Center, has created opportunities for our student-athletes to gather via Zoom and discuss how COVID-19 has impacted them,” said Brian Hardin, Drake’s athletic director, in an email on April 7 to student-athletes.
Hardin encouraged athletes to reach out to the athletics department if there is something they can do to assist them in this time of need.
Green said students are also able to call the counseling center line or email her.
“We’re continuing to offer individual sessions as we do for all students, and then a Zoom group for athletes,” Green said. “I’m happy to offer other resources or support if athletes, teams or coaches have ideas.”
Green said all student services at the Drake Counseling Center have been moved online, and she has been seeing more students due to current circumstances. For support groups, Green uses Zoom to communicate. Difficulties have occurred with the transition, but Green said she was impressed with how remote services are working.
“I think many students just feel so overwhelmed that they’re willing to take a risk and give therapy a try,” Green said. “I think it has been easier for people to fit into their schedule because they don’t have to drive or walk to an appointment.”
According to Green, one disadvantage for students reaching out to them remotely is that the conversation might be overheard by their family. Another reason athletes have hesitated to reach out is because they worry others may not think their sport being impacted is a big deal.
“Typically, when you’re an athlete, your sport and season is a major component to your identity,” Green said. “Your team is usually a huge support system and this pandemic has obviously changed athletics seasons, but also made it hard for athletes to connect with their teammates, coaches and train.”
This was true for Senior Captain of Drake Women’s Rowing team, Elizabeth “Liz” Rambhia. Rambhia reached out to Green because of two student-athlete support groups she knew only of one for Drake seniors.
“I haven’t seen a senior student-athlete support group offered, especially for senior spring student-athletes who did not have a chance at all to compete, and that has been extremely frustrating,” Rambhia said.
Rambhia said she was looking forward to expressing her feelings to a counselor, as she was not yet ready to part with her team or her sport. Drake Athletics was very blunt about the situation, but Rambhia didn’t feel appreciated when the season came to an immediate end.
“I didn’t feel at peace until the article about Drake’s rowing seniors was published and I saw the kind words our coach said about us,” Rambhia said.
Besides Drake’s Student Counseling Center, Rambhia said she has used her co-captains and other seniors as resources.
“I think it is important for students to have resources communicated to them during this time, so it is not an added stress on students to find it themselves,” Rambhia said.
According to Rambhia, talking to a Drake counselor helped her establish a schedule, and also validated her feelings.
Green encouraged Rambia, as well as other athletes, to continue to talk to their teammates.
“Talk about what you’re experiencing and don’t try to push it away,” Green said. “We’ve never been through a pandemic and it’s okay to struggle. There is no shame in reaching out to get support.”