Coaches find ways to support young athletes feeling adrift

In this Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, file photo, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes talks with guard Santiago Vescovi, of Uruguay.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Morgan Coppoc finds herself in a situation similar to so many other college athletes across the country, hundreds of miles away from campus and lost without her routine and her tennis teammates at Georgia.

Still, she is regularly hearing from her coaches for individual check-ins as well as receiving updates for the entire team, including the latest details about the coronavirus pandemic. The school counseling office also keeps in contact with Coppoc at home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to offer sessions by phone that she would have typically attended in person.

“This whole situation has been hard to process and still feels so surreal,” Coppoc said. “I have been experiencing many emotions across the spectrum. First, I was in denial. It was impossible to accept the gravity of what was happening. I even refused to unpack my clothes once I was back home in Oklahoma. I was scared. Now I’m 13 hours from campus and my closest friends, teammates and coaches.”

Leaders in college athletics are doing their best to adapt in real time to help athletes like Coppoc.

Coaches are making efforts to keep teams emotionally close when they’ve suddenly been scattered across the country — and in many cases the world. Regular video calls and group texts have replaced face-to-face interactions as they embrace new ways to help young athletes cope with a crisis that has also taken away the sports they loved, the very thing that defined many of them.