Filling the connection gap for athletes during COVID-19

Shot of woman soccer player with intense game face

By Hayden Hollinger, The Citadel

Show us your #gameface!

As COVID-19 continues to restrict the public by forcing more and more people to stay in their homes, like many others, athletes are left with a gap in their lives. To go from practicing four to five times a week — and living on a college campus surrounded by friends — to a sudden lock-down may seem like a welcome break for some, but a couple of days later, the lack of practice, competition, and socialization begins to take its toll.

Athletes of all ages and abilities, from areas across the country and even the world, are taking a hit to their routines. Athletes who are practicing social distancing now have to turn to social media and technology to stay in touch with their friends and fellow athletes in quarantine.

As many will tell you, the best thing about being part of a team is the relationships you form with teammates. Fortunately, many social media trends have helped people come together through their love of sports and exercising while promoting social connections online. Some of these include a “See 10, Do 10” push-up challenge, and a toilet paper ten juggle challenge for soccer players still hoping to stay connected anyway they can.

With both challenges, the idea is to complete the task and then nominate ten people of your choosing to attempt the challenge, who then continue it by sharing with their friends on Twitter or Instagram profiles. While a simple concept, these challenges are encouraging one another to stay active and continue to interact with friends in different ways than they may have before.

The Citadel football team participates in an annual spring game, featuring XFL rules and player-coaches, on Summerall Field at The Citadel on Saturday, March 7, 2020

Another active challenge athletes of many ages are enjoying is the #GameFaceChallenge. This one consists of nominated people posting a photo of themselves playing their sport, with an emphasis on the pictures not being as flattering as one has come to expect for Instagram or other photo sharing platforms. (Think “guitar-face” but for sports).

Again, all of these challenges offer lighthearted ways to connect with teammates and other athletes during this the difficult times that we are facing. Ranging from professional athletes, to aspiring-athlete children, the challenges have been attempted by people of all abilities, showcasing the togetherness that has continued to unite people together through social media.

As a coach and lifelong athlete, I believe it is very important to stay physically active at all times, but especially during times of great anxiety and stress. Equally, checking in on our athlete-friends and knowing they’re okay too will lead to better health at a time when creativity scores big.

Hayden Hollinger is a graduate assistant coach for The Citadel’s women soccer team. Hollinger also works as a graduate assistant in The Citadel’s Office of Communications and Marketing. He is originally from Inverness, Scotland.

The Citadel 2018-19, football, East Tennessee State University, Gen. Walters