Cindy Housner, GLASA Executive Director and Founder
How has your day-to-day changed since your programs have been suspended due to COVID-19?
Just like everyone else, my new normal is working in my kitchen or moving my laptop to other parts of the house when I need a change of pace. This is very different than working at GLASA’s very lively office where I interacted with staff, coaches and athletes all day. Prior to COVID-19, those of us in adaptive sports spent our evenings and weekends conducting programs, coaching athletes and interacting with our families. Now, we spend this time conducting Zoom trainings, and looking for other creative ways to continue to engage and motivate our athletes. Addressing the mental health of our athletes is even more important as it is difficult for many of them to stay physically active.
Is there something you’re spending more time on these days than you were prior to the stay-at-home orders?
Creativity and being resourceful is essential in this profession, and now more than ever these attributes are needed as we look for our coaches and instructors to teach and coach virtually. Zoom allows us to be engaged with our athletes, staff and coaches. We have done Zoom team meet-ups and if an athlete does not show up on the screen it is easy to text them to join the group. We have connected with other teams throughout the country for virtual practices which has been really fun as we miss the camaraderie of our competitors.
One of our Zoom practices involves one coach providing the narrative from his kitchen and the other coach demonstrating from his garage, doing what it takes. For our track and field virtual team meeting we had former high performance director, Cathy Sellers share her training tips with the team. We also are sharing healthy recipes, and of course, our favorite Netflix picks (aside from the Tiger King). GLASA has quite a few kids who will graduate from high school and go on to compete in college, so our team looks to recognize them virtually. In the future, we look to offer a Watch Party on Facebook Live watching the highlights of the Rio Paralympics.
How do you keep yourself, staff, athletes and board engaged, balanced, and looking forward during this time? Do you have any tips, tricks, success stories of something that been impactful that may be helpful to other disability sport leaders?
Our board is now having weekly Zoom check-ins as we navigate the financial challenges brought on by COVID-19. Addressing challenges week-by-week is helpful as we don’t have a timeline as to when we can practice or conduct programs again. In addition to our Zoom staff meetings, it is important to stay connected on a daily basis. This time of the year is always crazy with hosting games, training, preparing for camps, and traveling to competitions, so we’re taking this time to tackle those tasks that there never seems to be enough time for such as equipment maintenance, data input, future planning, and coach and staff education.
Staying connected to the athletes is so important as their competition calendar has been drastically altered. The high school athletes’ seasons have ended or in many cases not even started for 2020, and most of the colleges have sent students home so they may be back looking for additional training. If you have not heard from an athlete, make sure to reach out to them for a wellness check. Not having the support system of our practices or fitness programming can be challenging, but even more so if an individual has a newly acquired disability.
Other ways to stayed involved has been our posting of our Coronavirus challenge where athletes put on a t-shirt while they do a handstand. We have also loaned out sports equipment to our athletes for them to be active on their own. Once a week, staff e-mails an update of resources, virtual trainings and webinars. GLASA’s former sports psychologist intern conducted a Conversation Hour on How to Manage the Uncertainty of the COVID Pandemic and Enhance Your Fitness Activity, which was a great opportunity for our athletes to open up and share how they are dealing with being quarantined and not being able to train and compete. I have been trying to get outside each day, run and do some type of workout to stay balanced.
Have there been any #silverlinings you’ve discovered during the global health crisis?
There have been a number of silver linings during this challenging time. All the national disabled sports organizations as well as our local and regional sports organizations have been amazing in asking how they can help, and there are so many resources to share with athletes, coaches and staff. Athletes who don’t live locally are attending virtual practices, including those who may be out of the country. Our more experienced athletes have really stepped up as mentors and have assisted with our Zoom trainings. There is a sense of camaraderie amongst all of us that we will get through this together. When two of our athletes were diagnosed with COVID-19, they received support from teammates as well as competitors from across the country.
Any thoughts/strategies on how you might manage the ‘new normal’ once stay-at-home orders are lifted?
I think we need to first follow the CDC guidelines and be very mindful of the wellness of all of our athletes and community members. All our disabled sports organizations will be looking at the new normal as to how we can train our athletes and we will all be learning from each other. I love that the disabled sports community is so willing to share resources, and provide a strong support system to those who share the same passion. As we don’t know right now what our future looks like, it is so important that we continue to support our athletes and each other in the best way we can, taking time to enjoy the journey! We are all in this together and will come out even stronger!