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GVSU Coach & sports psychologist talk impact restrictions have on athletes

Posted at 8:34 AM, Nov 18, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As the state health department's new COVID-19 restrictions kick in here in Michigan, high schools and colleges are back to remote learning. Their sports programs have been shelved; some temporarily and others for the season.

Just two days ago, Grand Valley State University canceled its upcoming 2021 campaign, and it's not the first time. The Grand Valley State Men's Lacrosse team has had plenty of success over the years, including a national championship back in 2014.

But times have changed, and our country is in the midst of a pandemic which forced the Lakers to end their spring season after just three games.

"You're undefeated, we ranked top five, and we had national title aspirations and, you know, obviously, everything got cut short and so we're just kind of geared towards this year. and you know, and just kind of feel gutted with the announcement of the cancellation of the upcoming spring season," said Tim Murray, the head coach of the men's lacrosse team at GVSU.

The Lakers spring season, which is months away, was canceled this week as a result of the surge in COVID-19 cases.

"We love the sport of lacrosse, we're passionate about lacrosse. but at the end of the day, you know, we're a group of guys that are trying to throw a rubber ball into a net there are bigger things in this world that are going on. and we get that we acknowledge that and we understand that," Murray said.

Sports Psychologist Eddie O'Connor understands it, too. He sees athletes all the time who are struggling with the loss of playing the sports they love, especially the seniors.

"So for those athletes and the people around them, I say, you know, we really have to let them grieve, it's very important to not try to make it better, or look at the bright side, or any of those things that we know don't work, that just aggravate us. but really give people space to comprehend the loss and to feel it," said Sports Psychologist Dr. Eddie O'Connor.

He says some athletes may start to look within themselves.

"They almost have an automatic response like, well, this is what I do, this is who I am so I should just keep doing it no matter what and I challenge that and I say 'what are you doing here?'and now don't try to push them in one direction or the other but what a powerful question to kind of ask, to kind of say, well, again, this isn't what I signed up for the opportunities that I thought I would have are not there," Dr. O'Connor said.

He says this is a great opportunity for coaches to connect with their players.

"Really, the main thing that you can do, and athletes say this over and over again, is talk to us like human beings, right? recognize that we're not just, you know, your point guard, you know, but we have a life. and if a coach would just say, hey, how you doing? and then they could be like, i'm fine, but then be like, well, I noticed this or asked about creator, ask about their girlfriend, or what's going on with your parents. that is by far the best thing that you can do is to be present in their daily life."

It's something Coach Murray has been doing at GVSU for years.

"As frustrated and as disappointed as I may be right now, at the end of the day, what's best for these student athletes is what I'm most concerned with. and, you know, we'll make whatever adjustments we need to and like I said, hopefully, they'll revisit this at a later date," he said.

"You know, we may not have the opportunity to compete for a national championship like we're hoping for this year but that's not the you know, that's not the end all be all of what we're doing here," Coach Murray said.

As of right now, Coach Murray says the team will be able to resume practices again on February 1st; of course, that too is subject to change.

If there are parents or athletes out there who need someone to talk to like Dr. Eddie O'Connor, you can find him more information here.