I hope all is well with each of you and your families. The past three weeks have been challenging for all of us. As we begin to adjust to a new reality, I would like to provide you with an athletics update.
First, student-athletes, coaches and staff all seem to be doing well. For this, we are very thankful. Our hearts go out to everyone who is suffering or who has lost a loved one. We are also hopeful each of you will stay safe and stay healthy.
On Wednesday, March 11, we met with head coaches, sport administrators and key support staff to discuss the growing concerns related to the spread of the virus and how this could impact our entire operation. My goal was to share everything I knew about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), to listen, to answer questions and to prepare the staff for unprecedented changes to our lives. I wanted them to be ready for the very real possibility that our seasons and our practices could be over at any moment.
At the time, baseball was finishing a game that would end a successful home stand. Men’s basketball was practicing at JPJ prior to their departure for Greensboro. Women’s lacrosse would be hosting Syracuse the next evening and our track and field programs were in Albuquerque, N.M. preparing to compete at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Near the end of the meeting, we reminded the staff circumstances were fluid and could change by the time we went back upstairs to our offices. Within 48 hours, everything changed. ACC and NCAA competitions and practices were suspended and/or canceled.
As always, our priority was the safety and well-being of our student-athletes. We communicated with student-athletes, parents, coaches and our entire staff. All of us are thankful for President Ryan’s leadership, especially during these very trying times. We needed to follow the University’s lead and ensure our student-athletes returned home safely.
The response of our coaches, staff and student-athletes was absolutely amazing. To date, we only have six student-athletes remaining in housing on Grounds. Of our 750 student-athletes, only 90 remain in off Grounds housing or private homes in Charlottesville.
By Sunday, March 15, the athletics department staff had moved primarily to tele-working. We asked “non-essential” staff to work remotely as we began the process of narrowing the scope of on-site work so our “essential” employees could work remotely as well.
During this period of transition, we provided medical care, psychological care and nutrition to the student-athletes here until we were able to close our training rooms and dining hall. Our sports medicine staff and nutritionists have been invaluable and their efforts continue with student-athletes across all of our sports, virtually.
Moving our entire population to online courses has been quite the challenge, but I have been beyond impressed with the work of our student development and academic staff. We currently have an amazing schedule of virtual meetings set-up for student-athletes with academic coordinators, tutors and academic mentors to continue to support their educational pursuits. We are also engaged with faculty members as they adjust to this new normal. We have challenged the staff to not just survive during these times, but to find ways to motivate our student-athletes to thrive.
I continue to be inspired by the resiliency and creativity consistently shown by our student-athletes and coaches. There are a number of links to articles and videos at the end of this message that highlight how our student-athletes have adapted to new academic and athletic routines.
Even though we have adjusted to technology-based meetings and interactions, we have continued our daily and weekly conversations with all units in the athletics department. Our staff is monitoring circumstances as they change and we are preparing for a wide-range of scenarios moving forward. While we do not know when we will be able to return to competition, we do know adversity reveals character. I have been overjoyed to see staff members rise to the occasion over and over again. It is inspirational to see the care and concern for our student-athletes, for each other and for our families.
I would also like to express my gratitude and appreciation for health care professionals across the country, and, in particular, to our dedicated partners at the UVA Health System. We are so fortunate to have one of the nation’s top health systems in our community.
There is no doubt we will be facing unknown and formidable challenges, but I am confident we will emerge stronger by drawing upon the same determination, fight and grit our coaches and student-athletes display on a regular basis.
Thank you and take care.
Director of Athletics