The year 2020 has been a weird and difficult one for everyone. It has been especially troubling for athletic trainers as it has been problematic to practice our profession. We are a hand-on profession that is accustomed to being there for our athletes physically, mentally, emotionally, and in every other way possible; but primarily physically. When quarantine hit and we were separated from our athletes, it forced us to get creative in how we could stay in touch with our athletes and be there for them without being physically present.
The Early Stages of Communication During Quarantine
In the first few weeks of the quarantine when school was shut down but there were still ongoing injuries that I had been seeing and taking care of up to the time of the closure, I reached out individually to each family to check on them and let them know that I was still available to them. Either through e-mail or text message, I reached out to either the parents or the athlete themselves if we already had an ongoing conversation directly. The parents especially were extremely appreciative that I reached out to them to offer any assistance.
In addition, through the entire quarantine, I made myself available to provide any advice or answer any questions day or night through phone calls, text messages, e-mails, or any other form of communication. I sent my coaches (all seasons) multiple e-mails asking them to please circulate my cell phone number and e-mail address to all families so that I could offer assistance and guidance.
When I could not evaluate an athlete in person who reached out with an issue over quarantine, we often spoke and had a virtual evaluation over FaceTime. This was challenging but I am glad that I could offer these services to my athletes, especially those who were having a hard time making doctors appointments because the offices were shut down and could not go to the emergency room or urgent care for a fear of contracting Coronavirus. I was able to evaluate and offer treatment guidance for many athletes who otherwise would not have known what to do and were nervous or scared.
Staying in Touch
Another way that I kept in touch with the athletes and teams was through the wonderful application of Zoom. Using the Zoom application, I held many workout sessions with spring sport athletes and teams to keep them fit and engaged during what would have been their season. We did not know when or if we would be able to go back to spring sports, so it was important to keep them active and involved. Along with Zoom workouts I held Zoom informational sessions to answer any questions that a team might have or to take the opportunity to speak to them about a certain important topic; such as hydration, nutrition, the importance of a proper warm-up/cool-down, ect. These turned out to be very fun and educational sessions for the athletes and a way to keep them learning outside of the classroom.
The last way that I tried to keep in touch with the athletes, especially with them being teenagers and particularly engaged in social media, was to create a Twitter account and an Instagram account specifically for athletic training purposes. I had weekly themes in which I would make posts that had to do with that particular theme. In conjunction, I interjected many mental health posts to boost the athlete’s self-esteem and make them aware of how important positive mental health is, especially during this time of uncertainty. Looking back, I probably also should have created a TikTok account since that seems to be the big thing right now. Without communicating with them directly, I knew that they were seeing my posts and viewing the information or advice that I was presenting to them.
While the 2020 quarantine was a difficult time for athletic trainers, I am proud to say that I did all that I could for my athletes given the unique and crazy circumstances. Now that high school sports are back in action, I could not be happier to be (safely) back with my athletes providing them care and guidance in person. I hope that another quarantine does not happen now or any time in the future, but if it does I am prepared with the skills I developed to stay connected with them without being physically together.
Kathleen Ann Moran, MS, ATC, LAT, NASM-CPT is a Certified Athletic Trainer for Rothman Orthopaedics at Ocean City High School. Click here to learn more about Rothman Orthopaedics Athletic Training Services.