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Q: When the decision was made to cancel spring sports, it was a game day (March 12) versus Syracuse for you. What was that like?
Myers: “Slow motion. Had Carla Williams (athletics director) not pulled us together as head coaches on Wednesday, I think I would have been really shocked, but as we met on Wednesday and I realized our future was really precarious and then you started watching the news and the NBA cancelling on Wednesday night and the ACC basketball tournament getting canceled, I knew we were in trouble and in jeopardy of not playing that game. Because Carla did do a great job of pulling us in and letting us know where the college athletics world was the day before I think we were much more prepared for something that is really hard to be prepared for.”
Q: What did you say to your team after the announcement was made?
Myers: “In some ways I wish we were on the road, so we had a captive audience for a few more hours, but it was nice that the families were in town for this. At our pregame meal, right before it is when we found out that we were not going to play but I was just appreciative to have the team together at least for that. I think a spring sport is always hard because of the finality of the end. Everybody goes off and does their own thing. It is not like you have another semester to see kids and celebrate their successes and to really be able to thank them appropriately. I know I was really appreciative to be able to have that meal and have that chance for them to all hear the news at the same time from us. Then we were able to get together on the downtown mall. The whole season the girls had wanted ice cream. Every road trip they asked if we could get ice cream, so in a small way we were able to go to the downtown mall, an area that was outside, and we got ice cream as a team and went to the Pavilion to eat. It will never be enough, but it was certainly a great opportunity to be with the girls on the team that night.”
Q: How have your players reacted to this? What are the concerns they have voiced to you?
Myers: “They were also following the news and when a much bigger programs and entities were canceling before we were, I think we knew it was a matter of time in some ways. I can’t say we were prepared for it or that we have fully processed it, but we understood it enough and the importance of taking these next steps together. No one knew what the next day would bring, but it was a shared experience across all athletes at every level from the pro leagues down to the high schools and even the youths so it was a shared experience that hopefully we will rally around together and try to help each other out as we move forward.”
Q: How are you communicating with your team?
Myers: “We have been divvying up classes, so every coach has been talking to a class and then trying to reach out to a few more in addition. Kate Stephensen, our academic coordinator, has done a lot of communicating with each of them these first few weeks. Phone calls and group me. We are all on a group me together, so we are sending pictures of our walks and checking in on each other. The first steps are going okay. The important thing is we sustain it and we don’t get to the point where we don’t see each other. I still have to consider us in-season student-athletes even though we aren’t competing so our communication is consistent enough that they never feel alone and can still get strength and help each other through the challenging times. Life right now isn’t easy. Not only do we have an emptiness, but we have a concern of will we get sick, will someone we care about, and love get sick. To me, I just want them to never feel alone and that they have their team at their fingertips even though they can’t see them every afternoon.”
Q: What are your expectations for your players at this time?
Myers: “We keep encouraging them to keep a routine. Student-athletes in general are such creatures of routine, so to go from everything being structured to nothing being structured. It is building that routine, so they are going to bed at the same time, waking up. I encouraged them to get dressed and brush their teeth, even if no one can see them, make it so you feel like you are going to class even if it is in your living room. Some of the classes are going to meet online at the same day and time as normal, but not everybody is doing that. So, I am encouraging them, if they have a lecture at 11:15 and can watch another class at any point for a different class, maybe stack your academic day similar to what you would do here. Then schedule your exercise routine, not just because they are student-athletes, but I think mental health is going to be really important and it can fill some of our down time. Certainly, enjoy time with family that we never thought we would get, but building a routine is going to be huge to their success. Our team does a really great job in the classroom. I would like to see that continue even though they are not physically in classes, it doesn’t mean we can let that slip. I hope that kids are competitive with themselves and hold themselves to a high standard so that if they are doing well in a class, I would love to see that continue on that path.”
Q: What are you telling your players at this time in terms of conditioning? How is that taking place with the performance staff?
Myers: “Steven (Cuccia), our strength and conditioning coach, is sending them different workouts. Most of it is for just mental health right now as opposed to getting ahead. Once we figure out our routine and when we may resume, in my opinion when we know it is go-time again is when the workouts will get more specific and more real. Right now, they are mental health workouts that will fill some time and give everyone some structure.”
Q: How are you personally dealing with this?
Myers: “I suddenly have my daughter, Kelsey, home from college (Stanford). I obviously love her and am happy to have her home but my heart breaks because they were supposed to have a whole other quarter, so she wasn’t supposed to get home until June. To have only four years in college and to go to college with friends, create memories and compete with your team, it was cut significantly short. Then I have two boys that will probably torture me with online learning, so I am trying to get strong for the next few days so I can help them set up the structure I keep telling the team is so important. That I can really apply that at home so my kids can continue to learn, progress and dream big to start taking steps towards achieving those dreams.
Q: How has this impacted your family and you personally with Kelsey having been at Stanford?
Myers: “She is doing okay. She is happy to be home. Stanford emptied so gradually at first and then so quickly at the end. I was there on Friday and it sounded like kids could stay in the dorms, then on Saturday it was leave campus. The message was, if you do not have to stay, go home. At that point we needed to look into a storage unit. She is out of her dorm, so I totally understand that heartache as a parent watching my daughter go through it. The best part is kids, now that it is over so early, they realize how lucky they were to have what they had even though it wasn’t always easy and presented different challenges. Kelsey would go back in a heartbeat and three weeks ago she was calling home saying, ‘this is really hard, mom’ and I’m saying, ‘stay the course,’ so when you lose something so quickly it does make you appreciate it more. It is a shared experience for everyone no matter what year they are or where they go to college so the support group, with social media, thank goodness they have that humor and that contact that kids really have embraced. It is going to be really important to them finding their stride.”
Q: You had a planned trip out to California to visit Kelsey, how did all of this affect that and what was it like going out there?
Myers: “When our Syracuse game got moved from a Saturday to a Thursday and the fact that it was over Spring Break, I realized I could go and visit Kelsey. The first year of college is really hard and comes with so many challenges. I planned to go out on Friday and watch them play Oregon and I could just be a mom in the stands. The last time we saw her we were competing. For Kelsey, I felt like she just needed a mom, not a coach-mom. We had planned on going out to watch them play. I was really glad we had that booked and scheduled. By Saturday, I told her to pack two big bags for me to take home on the airplane to get a lot of her things home. I was glad to be there when the realization that this was over, and she was coming home hit. For a while she thought she could stay and I’m thinking she should so she remembered she was in school but that changed so quickly. I was glad as a mom to be there with her and help her pick things up when she said, ‘what does it mean’ and I was able to explain to her as a mom and coach through both avenues.”
Q: What is your message to UVA fans during a time like this?
Myers: “We are all in this together. Reach out to somebody if you need help. Just say, ‘hey I want to talk to somebody, I want to connect with you guys.’ We are not alone even though we are in our own homes right now. It is such a shared experience and in time we will have a better perspective on what it all is. In the meantime, we do feel a loss and an emptiness. I was talking to Dr. (Siobhan) Statuta (UVA Family Medicine) and I was asking ‘Does Tylenol help emptiness?’ because it is such a weird feeling that we are not used to having. We are all in it together, we will all get through this together. Sometimes losing something you love is really hard, but it makes you appreciate it more when you get it back. Stay the course and build your structure. People have been training their whole lives for challenges and this is just a challenge we didn’t see coming, but let that training get you through. Student-athletes are really structured, go-getters, smart and this is when we get to apply all of those things just in a way we haven’t seen.”