My name is Mattias Clark, and I want to share my thoughts about what it’s like to be an athlete as the COVID-19 virus makes its global and dangerous debut. It’s Tuesday, March 31, 2020. About two weeks ago our president, Donald Trump, placed the United States under “social distancing” in an attempt to minimize the threat level of COVID-19. This action is for the safety of our nation, but it is traumatizing, especially to student athletes in every level of education. Less than a month ago, I was at school working out every day, going to track practice, socializing with friends, and in an instant, those privileges were stripped away from me.

To go from your daily academic and athletic lifestyle to being quarantined and separated from what you know best is truly depressing. Your sleeping patterns are all thrown off, you feel like a slug because you can’t work out as hard as you used to, and you’re not sure what to do next because your future, for the most part, is up in the air. While all these things are true, it would be nothing less than futile to do nothing. These times are great to test your perseverance and your mental strength. I have two dumbbells, a ladder, some cones and the space in my room to exercise. It isn’t nearly what I was blessed to work with before, but it’s something to keep me going.

One thing that bothers me a lot is the cryptic conversations coaches are having, saying the virus and quarantine is going to be a big indicator of who actually is working when no one is looking. While this has some truth to it, it’s just a notion. Even if I do take what I have now to workout and stay fit, it won’t be nearly as equal to a weight room full of machines, an actual track to run on, or a guided practice. To be judged about your work ethic during a global pandemic is very frustrating. Being challenged to stay fit, however, is not.

For us seniors, with the “senioritis” already fully kicked in, being given online classes is almost equivalent to torture. We already are ready for high school to come to an end. So, doing school from home on a computer when you were already reluctant to do it at school surely isn’t ideal. Most seniors were really looking forward to things such as prom, graduation, senior ditch day, trunk parties and things like that. For all that to be cancelled kind of raises our stress level a little higher than our peers. College visits being canceled is another significant blow to us seniors as well. The senior Class of 2020 should be treated with extra sentiment during these tough times because we’re missing out on opportunities and memories that can only be made once in a lifetime.

I encourage everyone to be positive during these times, encourage and uplift each other, and most importantly be realistic. Don’t let your optimism overthrow what’s actually in front of you. Take precautions to stay safe and healthy. Don’t ignore the social distancing guidelines. Spend time with your family and pick up old talents that you let get away from you. Do something to keep your creativity flowing so that when times return to normal, you’re prepared to return to business as usual. Most importantly, trust God for your safety and remember that He’s bigger than any obstacle you’ll ever face in life.

Mattias Clark is a Kankakee High School senior set to graduate this spring. He was a member of the 2019 Daily Journal All-Area football team and an all-conference selection in the Southland Athletic Conference, a league he led in rushing for the past two seasons.

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