It’s no secret the past year has been challenging, in many ways, for everyone. College athletes have felt it in their own way.
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Last spring, they saw their seasons canceled due to COVID-19, and even though play has resumed this school year, it hasn’t looked nearly the same.
Murray Garvin’s South Carolina State men’s basketball team is just one of many that has endured lengthy pauses due to quarantining. Some schools and players have opted out. The NCAA Tournament will be held in one state and the entire March college basketball experience will look a lot different this year.
All of it has weighed heavily on Garvin and numerous other coaches.
“I knew that if I was struggling, that other coaches are struggling,” he said Thursday on the Sports Spectrum Podcast. “I just wanted to do something to reach the masses.”
That “something” materialized into a National Day of Prayer for College Coaches on March 1. CBS college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg and pastor Dr. Tony Evans will lead the virtual event.
It’s primarily meant for college basketball coaches, administrators and their families, but it’s also open to high school coaches and coaches at other levels who want to be a part of it — “for every person who has the heart to lift up college coaches,” according to Nations of Coaches.
At one point during quarantine, Garvin hosted what he called “an encouragement call” every Thursday prior to the season starting with friends and colleagues in the business. It was exactly what it sounds like — a call where he and others could share Scripture and encourage one another.
When the season started and life got busier, those calls fizzled out and the pressures of the season began to set in.
There was one week where his team went into quarantine because of a positive case, they had to cancel games, then the transmission on his 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe went out. All of that happened within a span of three days.
With his car out of commission, he remembered the anxiety he felt as he was carpooling with his wife to work one morning. The weight of it all was heavy.
“I got up that morning to take her to work and I’m telling you, the night before I wasn’t talking to anyone. I wasn’t talking to her,” he said. “So we’re in the car going to work, and you know that quiet, that silence, right? On my way back into the office, I pull over on the side of the road, and God told me, ‘You have to do something, but it’s bigger than your circle of friends.’ I said, ‘Wow. We’ve got to pray.’”
This season, he’s grieved the deaths of friends in the coaching business, and over Christmas break, in a span of just one week, he lost an aunt, a mentor and one of his childhood best friends lost their Mom.
“It was just a tough year,” Garvin said. “And so when [God] said, ‘Do something bigger than your friends,’ I texted about five people. I said, ‘We’ve got to pray. God laid it on my heart that we need to pray for all coaches.’”
One of the people he texted was Tommy Kyle, executive director of the Nations of Coaches, who also was already feeling called to do something. The grassroots effort began a little more than a week ago and numerous coaches have already registered.
March 1 seemed like a fitting date, Garvin said.
“Most people think about March Madness — the frenzy of the tournament,” he said. “But this year, and every year, for coaches and players, it’s the end of a career. It’s the end of a season.”
The excitement is coupled with uncertainty for a lot of coaches and assistant coaches, perhaps more so in a year like this. Some coaches will be looking for work by the end of the month.
This is all stuff that happens every March, but Garvin said he’s feeling the weight of it much more this year because for some of those coaches, there might be fewer vacancies that need to be filled, so finding a new job will likely be tougher.
“Imagine a coach that gets let go in this climate, you worry about, ‘OK, can I find employment?’ Because the turnover is not what it typically is,” he said. “There are some universities that say, ‘Hey, with the circumstances that you guys have been dealing with, I can’t fire you.’”
Some coaches were already let go before the season even ended, and Garvin said he feels for them, their staff and their families. It all affects the players and the entire program.
“This day of prayer, it’s needed,” he said. “I’m just happy to be a part of it.”