The Impact Of COVID-19: Shines A Light On Delaware Tech’s Support For Their Student-Athletes

Photo: Delaware Tech

The coronavirus is something this country and the world had not seen before which it’s impact was deadly and changed the everyday lives of everybody around the world.

COVID-19 would start to arrive in Delaware around March where the state would be in lockdown, as almost every industry closed down in the state except a few which were deemed essential jobs.

One of the most impacted industries had to be education because it came to an abrupt halt as K-12 schools and colleges closed down. Teachers had the difficult task of teaching their students their material online.

Colleges had to move all their resources from a face to face setting to a virtual setting which would be easy for students to understand and access.

As colleges shut down, spring sports seasons were canceled as the danger was far too great to have the student-athletes still playing while a pandemic was going on.

Even with the state of Delaware heading into Phase II of our “new normal”, education’s new normal is still not certain as fall classes start in September.

Delaware Tech was one of those colleges who felt all those effects but even with all that they still made sure their students and student-athletes were taking care of.

Delaware Tech’s Response As COVID-19 Impacted The State

The state of Delaware did not have a reported confirmed case of the coronavirus until March 11th but the virus was coming closer to the state as cases were in Delaware Country, Pennsylvania, and in further places like New York, Washington, and California.

Delaware Tech did not wait for the state to get its first case to warn their staff and students about the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, as on February 27th  the school posted about it on their website and gave measures on how to stay safe during that time.

February 27th post about warning students about the virus (Courtesy of Delaware Tech )

Fast forward to March 23rd as Governor Carney had just signed a state of emergency for the state as the COVID-19 began to impact Delaware, DTCC would start transitioning classes from face to face to remote learning.

Delaware Tech has continued to inform staff and students about the updates of the new normal of this time through their website and access of their campuses has remained limited to ” to students who need to use campus computer labs, bookstores, and food pantries, and to employees whose jobs do not permit them to work from home.”

On May 31st, DTCC received a $300,000 grant from JPMorgan which school officials told WDEL, it will help with the effects of the lockdown due to the coronavirus.  Delaware Tech’s Vice President for Academic Affairs Justina Sapna told the news website that the money will go to “laptops that will be available for students who are in need and enrolled in our credit and short-term certificate programs, so they can successfully complete their work in an online environment.” WDEL also reports the money will also go toward ” training for faculty members to help them focus on distance learning, and a virtual career platform for students to help in their search for jobs.”

 COVID-19 Impact On College Athletics 

The spring season for Delaware Tech would come to an abrupt end in March, as the coronavirus cases started to increase in the state which would cause Governor Carney to order a stay-at-home order that only allowed essential travel.

The season was officially canceled for spring Delaware Tech Athletes when the National Junior College Athletic Association announced the 2020 season was going to be canceled. DTCC’s baseball and softball team was already two weeks into their season as the announcement was handed down. The community college’s golf season was about to start as well when the cancellation was made.

More Than An Athlete, First A Student

The NJCC and Delaware Tech were disappointed to end the spring season so early but the safety and well-being of the student-athletes come first, before any athletic event. Also, for the Delaware Tech athletic department, it was paramount to make sure that student-athletes would have every tool available to make the transition from face-to-face to remote learning go very smoothly.

As the college transitioned to distance learning, Delaware Tech knew the students still needed access to student services that were available at all four college campuses in the state. DTCC would solve this problem by launching the Virtual Support Center where students can go to the site and connect through Zoom video communications to get the same services they would if they were at the campus.

Michael Ryan who is the Director of the Athletics at Delaware Tech explained how their three student-athlete academic development specialists (SAADS) made the Virtual Support Center work and continued to work with the student-athletes to make sure they were set up too. The SAAD’s have seen over 10,000 students use the Virtual Support Center since March.

CJ Huntington who is the student-athlete academic development specialist in Georgetown explained at first how remote learning and adjusting to a new schedule was difficult for student-athletes.

“Remote learning and advisement were concepts that were completely new to a large number of our student-athletes, and not necessarily something our student-athletes had expected or planned for as the spring semester unfolded,” said CJ Huntington.

Huntington also added that, “Some student-athletes had to find the correct technology resources to continue their courses, and many student-athletes had to adjust to a new system of time management as their normal routines had changed.”

As for many students, the pandemic did not just change how the student-athletes were getting their education but their everyday routine had drastically changed, as SAAD Huntington explained.

“However, not all of the challenges were academic. Some became tutors to other siblings who also had transitioned to online learning, others had to pick up extra shifts or take on a new job to help supplement their family’s income, and a few had to take on a caretaker role for family and friends who needed assistance during this difficult time.”

Education First Is Nothing New For Delaware Tech

Delaware Tech wants to see their student-athletes succeed on and off their field of the chosen sport and the college will help that student in every way to get them to that success.

In the college’s Life as a Delaware Tech Student-Athlete article, Del Tech’s AD Michael Ryan talks about how he wants student-athletes that are committed to the classroom and their sport.

“We are committed to recruiting Delaware high school student-athletes,” said Michael Ryan, collegewide director of athletics. “We want young men and women who will place academics first and have a strong desire to excel in the classroom, as well as the sport they participate in.”

Before the pandemic, some examples of the support that college had for student-athletes were mandatory student hall which in the article says it ” helps students balance their academic workload and improve their time management skills.” The student-athletes also get help from the student-athlete academic development specialists at the different campuses in the state who assist them with scheduling classes and to make sure they are communicating with their instructors.

Photo caption: (top left) Ben Cooper, golf; (bottom left) Jenna Taylor, women’s cross country; (center) McKenna Browning, softball; (top right) Luisa Cadeza-Lujan, women’s volleyball; (bottom right) Shymier Johnson, men’s basketball. Courtesy of Delaware Tech

In the Del Tech article, five student-athletes were profiled which each one of them had their different reasons on how and why they excel in their studies. The one thing the student-athletes all mentioned was the support from teammates or staff.

Shymier Johnson
Johnson is an entrepreneurship major. ( courtesy of Delaware Tech)

For example, Shymier Johnson who is on Delaware Tech’s men’s basketball team earned a 4.0 GPA in the fall semester of 2019 which he credits being part of the team helped him keep up with his studies.

  “Earning a 4.0 by itself is hard, but being a student-athlete at the same time is even harder,” Johnson said. “Being a member of the basketball team definitely helped me keep my grades up.”

Ben Cooper
Cooper is a business major. ( courtesy of Delaware Tech)

Ben Cooper who was a member of the golf team earned a 4.0 GPA in his two years at the school and he credited being part of student clubs to help remind him that his education comes first before everything else.

“Getting involved has been key,” Cooper said. “It has helped me make sure I study first and then do all of the extracurricular activities.”

Jenna Taylor
Taylor is a mechanical engineering major. ( courtesy of Delaware Tech)

Just like Cooper, Jenna Taylor was involved Student Government Association at Delaware Tech but she did not get into athletics right away at the school. In Taylor’s first year she was the vice president of SGA and team manager for the cross country program, it was in her second year when she joined the program as a runner. Also, in her second year, Taylor juggled a lot as she was on the cross country team and the president of SGA. Taylor handled all the responsibilities with ease as she earned a 4.0 GPA and all-region honors for cross country. The Delaware Tech cross country runner shows that a student-athlete can do it all and still succeed in and out of the classroom. In the article, Taylor also talks about how the college is a very supportive place which can make it easier for students to have success.

“It feels good to be able to show others that it is possible to do everything,” Taylor said. “The College is very supportive, and seeing staff, faculty, and students at meets really touched my heart.”

Luisa Cadeza-Lujan
Cadeza-Lujan is in the elementary education program. ( courtesy of Delaware Tech)

Luisa Cadeza-Lujan is on the volleyball team for Delaware Tech but it was instilled from a very young age by her mom that education is first before athletics. Cadeza-Luja’s education first mindset had her working hard on homework during the road trips on the team’s away games, constantly communicating with her instructors and the support system from her teammates and the staff was there to help the Delaware Tech volleyball player. All that hard work has paid off for Cadeza-Lujan as she graduated with a solid 3.5 GPA.

“My mom always told me school comes first and then sports,” Cadeza-Lujan said. “I had a mindset of always getting good grades and never had anything lower than a B.”

McKenna Browning
Browning is a diagnostic medical sonography major. ( courtesy of Delaware Tech)

The last student-athlete Delaware Tech profiled in the piece was McKenna Browning who was on the softball team and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Browning mentions how sports teaches lessons that can be used on the field and off the field in the real world.

“Sports teaches you respect and responsibility,” Browning said. “I want to be the type of person my teammates can rely on. We all have an appreciation for the sport and for each other, and we are all learning values that we can use in the workplace and beyond.”

The support did not stop as the pandemic hit, coaches and staff just had to be creative on how to get the student-athletes together and making sure they were still doing their training for their sport.

Coaches Show Support

If you think the coaches at Delaware Tech just care about their student-athletes excelling in the sport they play, well you just do not know the culture of the college.

The coaches at the college know how hard these student-athletes work to be the best in their chosen sport and excel in the classroom. The coaches proudly show off the hard work the student-athletes do in the classroom and out. Stu Madden, the head coach of Delaware Tech’s baseball team tweeted out proudly how his team had a 3.5 GPA and finished the shortened season a strong 11-3.

The coaches not only cheer on the achievements of their particular team but shoutout the hard work from student-athletes in the other sports in the college.

Coaching In the Virtual World 

Zoom is everyone’s best friend these days because it is one of the most popular video conference apps that helps people connect to their staff, family, friends, and for coaches their student-athletes.

The video conference app has allowed coaches at Delaware Tech to check in with their student-athletes to see how they are holding up during the pandemic and do some team building activities with them. It is also a great way to make sure that their student-athletes are continuing to do their exercise program while still in quarantine.

Cross Country - Logan Hallee running
Cross Country runner Logan Hallee running on his own. ( courtesy of Delaware Tech)

The teams may be apart but they can still have some fun together as the men’s lacrosse team watched some past NCAA national championship games together and have been participating in what their coach Sean Tischler calls the “QuaranTeam” Challenge.

The program is where a lacrosse player gets points for every exercise workout they complete which brings up the competitive spirit among the team.

Pandemic or not, Delaware Tech is serious about supporting their student-athletes and making sure they become well-rounded students and athletes.

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