Athletes fight declining motivation due to COVID restrictions

October 10, 2020 — by Anjali Nuggehalli

As he scanned the surrounding empty bleachers at Benny Pierce Field, wide receiver Parsa Hashemi couldn’t help but feel exasperated. Instead of catching highlight-reel throws for touchdowns this fall, Hashemi has been limited to decidedly less glamorous activities like socially distanced deadlifting with five of his teammates. 

Although the football team resumed training in August, county regulations soon halted full-team practices, instead mandating smaller cohorts of five members. The team meets three times a week to weight lift, but they have not been approved to touch the ball yet. 

Instead of the high-intensity football practices that he is accustomed to, Hashemi has noticed that the team has started to lose focus without the high-stakes environment of games and playoffs to shoot for in the immediate future.

“It’s a little frustrating because people aren’t as motivated and just joke around during practice,” Hashemi said. “It’s fun, but I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it’s more enjoyable to play the sport seriously.” 

After witnessing many of his friends burn out athletically, Hashmi understands how easy it is to lose competitiveness and drive. This trend is especially prominent in individual sports like running, where athletes lack the social aspect of the sport to keep them engaged, he said.

However, Hashemi said he refuses to let anything get in the way of his individual progress. In fact, he has used quarantine as an opportunity to work even harder. 

“It’s easy to ask yourself, ‘What am I doing this for?’ but I’m just trying to see this as an opportunity to work on my own game,” Hashemi said. “Losing my season has forced me to reflect on how important football is to me, and I’m just going to keep training hard.” 

Volleyball player Jordyn Sin has also maintained a high level of enthusiasm for her sport, but acknowledges the lack of motivation from many of her teammates. 

Sin plays at the gold division for City Beach Volleyball, a level reserved for elite volleyball players looking to be recruited. In the past, making this team required passing arduous tryouts, but due to the coronavirus, her club admitted players onto the team without holding any open gyms.

 “It was really frustrating to get that spot on the team handed to me because I wanted to work for it,” Sin said. “I wanted to be surrounded by better teammates who also competed to get a spot on such a high level team.”

Sin noticed that because her club lowered the stakes in determining rosters, many of her teammates have stopped taking practices seriously. Even on the highest level team, many players skipped summer practices and are not applying themselves during training. 

For Sin, this lack of motivation has been exacerbated by the pressure of completing junior year school work in an online environment, which has prevented players from performing at their highest level. In the past, players were driven to work hard to improve themselves because of frequent open gyms and recruiting events. With no such events in the planned future, players no longer feel the same sense of urgency. 

 “You already feel drained from sitting at a desk for five hours,” Sin said. “It’s hard to take practice seriously when all you want to do is sleep.”

 Sin said she continues to push herself despite the lack of motivation around her. She constantly reminds herself that her goal is to get recruited by a college team, and in order to do so, she must maintain her drive for volleyball. She also urged other athletes — whether or not their goal is to be recruited — to stay optimistic. 

“High school is going to be over before you know it, and this may be the last time you’re able to play your sport,” Sin said. “Just remember why you started playing in the first place, and you’ll find that love for your sport again.”