Psychiatrist, coaches emphasize health benefits and importance of youth sports during pandemic

Author: Roxanne Elias (WTOL)

Published: 11:46 PM EDT August 20, 2020 | Updated: 3:50 AM EDT August 21, 2020

A psychiatrist at the University of Toledo says sports give kids structure and discipline while also helping them to develop skills for the real world.

TOLEDO, Ohio — With Gov. Mike DeWine giving sports the go-ahead for the fall, student-athletes have renewed hope in the chance to live a healthier life during the pandemic.

Justin Edgell, the athletic director at St. Francis de Sales says not having sports has impacted the mental health of student-athletes, but the new order is changing that.

Athletes at the west Toledo school began training back on June 8. Edgell is calling it a much need outlet.

"There's a lot of anxiety, a lot of frustration, uncertainty right now. And athletics, COVID or no COVID, is an avenue for them to come out and not only burn off that energy but to socialize," said Edgell.

According to psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Kelly, the Vice Chair of Education for the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toledo, it's also a way for the athletes to keep their mental health in check.

"Sports can give kids structure, discipline. They have routines that they can follow and through all of that, they build skills that can then use in the classroom and beyond," said Dr. Kelly.

Dr. Kelly says sports can prompt athletes to also develop interpersonal relationships and social skills as they go out in the real world.

Coaches say sports aren't just about winning on the field. Even after the Friday night lights dim, sports remain deeply tied to the personal identity of student-athletes.

"It's indescribable. It's their entire life. When you ask these kids who they are, they start off with 'I play football. I run cross country. I play soccer'," said Taylor Frendt, the Head Athletic Trainer at St. Francis de Sales. "So it's part of their identity, it's part of their life, their culture and who they are as a person."

Frendt says parents actually started to see the side effects on their children when training stopped because of COVID-19.

"Parents complained that they wouldn't sleep, they wouldn't eat because their normal physical activity was taken away from them, so they wouldn't get exhausted," said Frendt.

But now, many athletes are back to their usual selves as they look forward to playing fall sports.

At St. Francis, specialists are on stand-by, just in case, to help students who may need aid with their mental health.

"This green light - it definitely makes people happy who really enjoy sports and take a lot of pride in it. The word of caution, though, is to temper it. Remember that we still live in the world right now of coronavirus," said Dr. Kelly.

"Kids wanna be here. Families want to be here. We were all shelter in place for almost three months. Couldn't see family, couldn't see friends and this, this is our community," said Edgell.


Athletic trainers jobs’ more difficult with coronavirus concerns

Published on August 16, 2020

By 123news

Athletic trainers have a challenging job in the best of times but are into new territory as they try to prepare athletes for upcoming seasons in the midst of a pandemic.

“It’s rough,” said Kim Velotta, Edgewood High School athletic trainer.

She said a lot more sanitization is the order of the day.

“We can’t do all our regular [routines],” Velotta said.

She said they can only have on person in the training room at any given time because of social distancing requirements.

One of the biggest challenges is making sure the athletes drink enough water because the school is no longer able to provide water because of potential coronavirus contamination.

“Do we want heat stroke or COVID?” Velotta said.

Velotta said they are trying to get creative and create or buy a cooler that can be activated with a pedal so it would not need to be touched. The athletes are supposed to bring their own water but don’t always bring enough, she said.

Grand Valley athletic trainer Denise Fisher also said it has been challenging but encouraging as well. “

The school has been very supportive,” she said.

“I don’t even know how to describe [the COVIF-19 challenges],” she said.

One positive side of the experience is the athletes have had to take on more responsibility, bringing water and sanitizing to name a few, and seem to be working harder.

“My day-to-day has not changed and I still provide all my day-to-day athletic training responsibilities,.” Fisher said.

She said she has been doing a variety of training with coaches to be prepared for medical emergencies such as cardiac conditions because of some studies that indicate the virus can lead to heart problems.

Fisher said she is fortunate that she has a larger training room that was formally a class room.

“I can have four people [with proper social distancing],” she said.

As the fall athletic seasons move along Fisher said she is planning for possible outside taping sessions if injuries start to pile up.

“They are talking about getting a tarp in case it rains,” she said.

Fisher said the athletes are being asked to social distance during games and dots have been placed on the sidelines to help make that goal a reality. She said athletes not in the game were asked to find a dot to stand on during a scrimmage among their own team.

It is a whole new world.