TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Some high school football athletes say their mental health is sitting on the sidelines as health officials attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
On Tuesday, November 24th, Pima County Administrator, Chuck Huckelberry, asked districts to “cease all high school athletic events”.
The recommendation comes as COVID-19 cases reach an all-time high in Pima County.
For Teddy Walton, Justin Horn, and Kailer Catalano, their futures are up in the air.
“It’s always been my goal to go to college for football,” said Walton, a senior at Mountain View High School.
Walton has played football over the last 11 years. He fondly remembers his dad coaching him during his junior year.
“With college, it’s really all about the film,” he said. “So, this is my year to get the film.”
Having only played two games before the season was put on pause, Walton worries he doesn’t have enough for his recruitment reel. It’s also not a level playing field as football continues in other counties; giving other athletes an advantage when it comes to their reels.
“It’s been very stressful,” he said. “It’s one of the most stressful things I have experienced in my life so far.”
While Walton deals with the stress of trying to land a football scholarship, Catalano is living with crushing disappointment. His parents spent a lot on his shoulder surgery so he could play.
“It was either don’t get surgery, don’t play football. Or, get surgery and finish your senior year,” said the Ironwood Ridge senior. “So, I get the surgery, I spend six months in a sling. Then on top of that, I come back, I’m ready for the senior season … and then COVID hits.”
Catalano didn’t play a single game this season.
“Football is a lot greater than a lot of people think it is,” he said. “It’s a sense of family. For a lot of my friends and teammates, this is their only way out.”
The three athletes say they are suffering the consequences of the coronavirus mitigation efforts.
“The health and safety of people is really important, but at one point, it’s going to be deeper than that,” said Horn, a senior at Mountain View. “I definitely think a lot of kids have dealt with depression already.”
School Psychologist at Marana Unified School District (MUSD), Katherine Newton, says students are struggling.
“We all struggle with uncertainty, and when we don’t know what’s going to happen in a month, two months, a year, it causes anxiety,” she said. “In some people, it can cause depression, feeling hopeless, feeling like we don’t have control over things. These are really hard times, especially for students.”
At first, they were looking forward to their senior year. Now, Walton, Catalano and Horn are just trying to make it through.
“To know that we might have to deal with this for the rest of the year, it’s kind of heartbreaking honestly,” Walton said.
Newton urges students who are struggling to reach out to their parents, teachers, friends or school counselors. Asking for help is a sign of strength. You can also reach the Teen Lifeline 24/7 at 602-248-TEEN (8336).
For healthy ways to cope with stress, Newton suggests:
-limiting your time watching the news and being on social media
-exercising, getting outdoors
-connecting with a friend who is a positive influence; either virtually or in person while following health recommendations
-setting attainable goals
-taking up a new hobby
-finding a way to give back