UMass basketball

A season cut short — how coronavirus upended intercollegiate athletics

Psychologist explains the grief college athletes are experiencing during the COVID-19 outbreak 

March 20, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak has sent shockwaves through the nation’s higher education system. While students can continue their studies online, campus closures rob them of many irreplaceable experiences. Susan Krauss Whitbournepsychological and brain sciences, explains why this is especially true for student athletes. In an Inside Higher Ed article, she explains how coronavirus affects student athletes and the loss they are experiencing. 


From ‘Loss of Camaraderie and Community’ 

The decision by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to cancel all remaining championship competitions to reduce the spread of coronavirus has compounded the disappointment students are feeling about the changes taking place on their campuses. They describe the cancellations in emotional terms, using words such as "tragic" and "traumatic." 

Student athletes and graduating seniors are dealing with multiple levels of grief, said Susan Krauss Whitbourne, who studies athletes and sports fandom. “Some of them will never put on a uniform ever again, and their whole experience has changed,” Whitbourne said.  

Allison Wahrman, a senior who competes for the University of Iowa's track and field team, found it all "heartbreaking." She said there was no closure on her college athletic career. “I’m in shock right now. It hasn’t really processed that I already competed in my last meet,” Wahrman said. “I’ve been an athlete my whole life, so for it to end like this, it doesn’t make sense to me.” 

Despite the distance created in communities and the loss of shared entertainment due to public health authorities' recommendations that people not congregate in groups, students, team athletes and college sports fans alike will find ways to connect with one another, Krauss Whitborne said. 

“The lack of physical togetherness will affect that sense of community, but outside hardships unite people,” Whitbourne said. “Once they’re able to cope with the grief in general that they’re going through, they find ways to come together and find new ways for fandom.” 

Read the full article on Inside Higher Ed >> 

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