Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 12 No. 5 | May 2020

T o illustrate how quickly life changes, before mid-March, Virginia Tech student-athletes enjoyed the benefits of meeting individually with academic advisors at their leisure. They visited with trainers and doctors, and they discussed topics with the nutrition staff, while eating an unlimited number of snacks available to them. Those who needed counseling only needed to make an appointment for an in-person consultation. Yet today, in the world of college athletics, words like “telehealth,” “remote instruction,” and “Zoom” dominate conversations. The impact of the nation’s ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including the subsequent closing of most university classrooms and buildings, have forced those who work in college athletics into a new and unimaginable universe. And those who work in the background with college athletes—trainers, doctors, nutritionists, academic advisors, and psychologists—find themselves adjusting to the current situation at a rapid speed. These people, quite simply, can’t just sit at home, wait for the virus to pass, and return to normalcy. The student-athletes need them—to be academically eligible, to be physically fit, and to be mentally ready whenever they return to competition. So that requires staff members continuing to do their jobs even though they lack the ability to meet in person with the very people they need to help. At Tech, those who work in the areas of academic advising, sports medicine, sports psychology, and nutrition have become well versed in Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype. They also use email, make calls and send texts. In other words, wherever student-athletes go to communicate, they can expect to find those who can help them. “A lot of that is on us,” agreed Mike Goforth, associate athletics director for sports medicine. “That is the way that age group communicates. They can be sitting beside each other in a room and not talking, but texting each other. So really, we’re the ones, the older ones, that need to meet them where they’re at, whether it’s social media, texting, Zoom, whatever it is.” Maintaining constant communication with student-athletes is a big part of their jobs—but it’s not the only part. Here is a closer look at how each area has adapted during the pandemic: MAKING THE GRADES Coaches have expressed many concerns over their student-athletes being at home during this pandemic, but arguably academics ranked as the biggest. Virginia Tech elected to move all classes and other instruction to online formats beginning March 23. Most professors started using Zoom—a video conferencing format—as the way to teach classes while the students remained at home. All scholarship student-athletes receive a laptop, so all of themneeded to download the Zoom software to use it, or enlist technical support, to take their classes. The Office of Student-Athlete Academic Support Services—acronym, SAASS—stayed on top of the student-athletes about this, making sure student-athletes “attended” their classes. “They are doing a great job with all of this,” said Sarah Armstrong, the director of SAASS. “Our students are great with technology, so for the most part, they were really able to make an easy transition to an all- online environment. There are times that it would be much easier for us to be able to meet face to face—and nothing will replace that—but I’m thankful for all of the technology we have.” There were, however, bigger concerns as the student-athletes made this transition. For starters, all freshmen are required to attend 10 hours of study hall each week within the SAASS offices. Obviously, being at home prevented that. Armstrong and her staff considered an “online” study hall for this group, but the idea wasn’t practical, so the staff counselors—each one is assigned to two or three different sports—instead decided to reach out to each of his/her freshmen daily throughout the semester. A bigger issue for SAASS, though, centered on tutoring. Numerous Tech student-athletes receive individual tutoring in various courses. The one-on-one instruction is invaluable, helping student-athletes to pass particularly difficult courses and ultimately maintain their eligibility. Tutoring is especially critical for at-risk student-athletes. The SAASS staff moved quickly, transitioning all tutorial sessions to Zoom. Kelsey Wooten, who serves as the tutor coordinator, worked diligently to move the entire program online, including the training of all tutors on Zoom and creating the individual sessions with student-athletes. As a result, any student-athlete who needed a tutor still had the ability to secure one, just as before the pandemic. “Kelsey has also worked closely with our ACC peers to collaborate with them and closely with the TLOS office [Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies] 12 Inside Hokie Sports