FALL RIVER: The magnitude of the COVID19 pandemic was initially “laughed off” by athletes at the University of Florida, said a Fletchers Lake soccer star who is in her first year as a Gator.
Sydney Kennedy, who arrived home on March 22 and has been in 14-day self-isolation since, described the reaction to the Coronavirus hitting the shores of the United States, and the reaction her fellow students had as its impact became a reality.
Kennedy was one of three athletes from the Fall River area who were in the U.S. as COVID19 began to make its mark. The others were Bridget Deveau in Boston, although she had made her way home to Fall River; and Nikki Wadden, who now lives in Nevada.
“No one was really worried about going out in public and doing normal everyday activities like grocery shopping, going out to eat, etc. Or going home for that matter,” said Kennedy in an interview upon arriving home. “Until the Florida Governor came out with a statement revealing that four UF students tested positive for a Corona.
“We then received an email from the University President not even five minutes later stating that all students who had not gone home yet had to go, if possible.”
Kennedy said that most of the athletes had remained in Gainesville, Fla., to train on their own, though there was only one gym open and all public parks were closed too.
“Now, basically everyone is gone,” she said.
Kennedy, an alum from Halifax West, said students at the UF had began hearing rumours a day or so before that classes and sports would be cancelled because of COVID19.
“One day after practice we all had emails from the President at UF saying that classes would likely be held online for a period of time because of Corona,” she explained. “The email stated that teachers would have to slowly make the transition from in class to online.
“Everyone laughed off the email, none of us took it that seriously, we had no idea what was about to happen.”
Not even 12 hours later students got an email that said there was no more transition and that all classes were required to be online.
“We started to take things more seriously now and people started to panic a little bit, we now realized that everyone’s seasons could possibly be about to end and that our lives were about to be flipped upside down,” said Kennedy. “Not even a day later, we got an email from our conference president terminating all sports in the conference. This included all sports, even the ones about to go into championships, march madness, etc. Everyone in the athlete world was devastated.
It was a whirlwind 24 hours for athletes like Kennedy.
“We went from a suggestion to make all classes online, to all sports and classes being made online/cancelled completely, in just 24 hours,” she said. “It was so chaotic. So many changes happened in one day.”
Kennedy said being away from family during this time was tough, but she stayed in contact with family daily.
“I also had a lot of support from other athletes as there is not many international student athletes,” she said. “Everyone knew the situation I was in being so far away from home and had my back. That’s one thing that makes UF so special, the athletes are one big family, everyone’s got each other’s backs.
She said classes are to remain online for UF throughout the rest of the spring and summer.
Kennedy said COVID19 didn’t have her scared until the four cases at UF were announced.
While she will be in self-isolation for 14 days after arriving home, Kennedy is glad to be under the same roof as her family, especially during this stressful time.
“After the two weeks of self isolation I plan to make the most of my time with my family and enjoy some time to relax before year two,” she said with a smile.
Fall River’s Deveau said when she left Boston, Mass., things were just getting started.
“I’ve spent most of the pandemic here in NS,” said Deveau. “As far as I know, things are shut down there like they are here.”
Wadden, who is the Assistant Director of Football Operations at Nevada University in Reno, Nevada, said the state Governor shut things all down on March 19 to non-essential business (including hotels and casinos). Everything was to be closed 30 days.
At NU, Wadden said, professors were required to move classes online by and finish the rest of the semester online.
“As for Athletics, teams are not allowed to practice or play any games,” the Fall River product said. “We have cancelled our Spring football practices and our Spring Football game which was supposed to be on April 25.
“We are utilizing the application Zoom to do a team meeting every morning (Monday-Friday) and position group meetings for the team to study film and our plays.”