FAU athletes look back on the COVID-19 pandemic one year later

Players from football, basketball, and volleyball share their perspectives on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic since it started last year.


Art by Michelle Rodriguez-Gonzalez.

Richard Pereira, Sports Editor

One year has passed since the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down, taking away many sources of entertainment for quite some time. 

Sports was one of those sources of entertainment as college athletes had to adjust to handling something that not much about it was known at first.

FAU players from football, men’s and women’s basketball, and volleyball look back on it as they discuss what they did to stay safe, their biggest difficulty going through it, how it felt not being able to practice with teammates normally when sports returned, and how it impacted aspects of their lives.


Ahman Ross, redshirt junior outside linebacker for the football program, said the team was in the middle of workouts when the pandemic hit.

“It didn’t really affect us at first because we just thought it was going to be quick, we thought it was gonna pass over,” Ross said. “But when spring sports got canceled, that’s when we kind of realized, ‘Oh, this is kind of big’ and we didn’t really know what to expect after that.”

While Ross maintained isolation throughout the pandemic, what was difficult for him was contact tracing within the football team.

“Being on the football team in contact tracing with quarantining, having over 100 players, and understanding the rules of contact tracing, you just have to follow the protocol,” Ross said. “The toughest part about it is sometimes knowing and not knowing if you’re going to be contact-traced during the season or at any point with football.”

As the captain and team leader during the preseason, the team quarantined Ross three times due to contact tracing as he understood the importance of explaining to his teammates to follow protocol.

“We already knew it was gonna be a new year with COVID and everything going on,” Ross said. “It was new to everyone so it was just my job as a team captain to relay messages and try to get everyone on the same page so we can follow everything accordingly.”

Whether or not the pandemic had occurred, Ross maintained that the team played with the cards they were dealt with for the 2020 season.

“Some days we did, some days we didn’t and that is the ups and downs of the football season,” Ross said. “But we will never want to blame a pandemic on how well or how badly did on the season.”

Ross made himself more focused on his academics due to classes being virtual as he had to lock in mentally and keep in touch with professors.

“It is just things that you have to brush up on and just remember at the end of the day, you’re still a student,” Ross said. “Even though you’re at home, there’s still work to be accomplished.”

As a team leader, Ross trained himself to be well, be great in new situations, and never be out of shape because he never wanted to be rattled. “You always want to be someone that everybody can look to for strength and guidance or just as a role model,” he said.

Ross sees the impact of the pandemic as a time to sit down and self-reflect on what’s being done to stay safe.

“People’s lives were at risk and unfortunately people lost lives. It’s not something to be taken lightly,” Ross said. “The people that you have around you and the people that you love and care about; the main thing to get across is don’t take anything for granted.”

Men’s Basketball

Then-sophomore guard Michael Forrest and his team were on their way to face North Texas in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA tournament after beating Old Dominion 66-56. Unfortunately, the matchup was not to be as the pandemic canceled the rest of the tournament, cutting everyone’s season short.

“That morning was when coach [Dusty May] had told us ‘yeah, they’re canceling the tournament because of COVID,’” Forrest said. “I remember the feeling in the room, everyone was excited and it just went away. The whole room was just really depressing like, the seniors were really depressed because it’s like their last time ever playing college ball.” 

Being alone for an extended period became a constant struggle throughout Forrest’s daily life due to the pandemic.

“I’m so used to hanging out with my friends, talking to everybody, and just being around them because being in isolation is really tough on you mentally if you think of a lot of different scenarios,” Forrest said. “But having my family close by, having friends that I know I can talk to made it a little easier.”

While Forrest stayed upbeat despite not being able to do practices and scrimmages normally with teammates when they returned for the 2020-21 season, he felt that things could’ve been different if COVID-19 didn’t change everything.

“We would have had a better camaraderie amongst ourselves like a gelling type of nature with all of us,” Forrest said. “We’re brothers on and off the court, but I feel like it would have been more of a family.”

The pandemic heavily affected Forrest academically as online classes were not ideal for him.

“It’s very difficult to stay focused and just stare at a screen for two or three hours at a time. For me, that’s really hard,” Forrest said. “I feel like I learn better being around a learning environment so I have people to talk to [and] ask questions off of.”

Despite COVID-19 preventing Forrest from playing how he wanted to play, he found ways to stay in tune, remain in shape, and communicate with teammates while doing so.

“I’m bringing one or two of my teammates and we need to just work out and just have some type of a basketball community,” Forrest said. “Just being able to have them around and just play with them, work out and then give my perspective on what I’m thinking and they give me feedback.”

What Forrest wants people to know about the pandemic was how it can mentally affect them, especially with the struggle of not having someone by their side.

“I know there [are] times where some people literally cannot just be by themselves because they just mentally can’t handle it; they need somebody to at least talk to them and just be around,” Forrest said. “If you don’t have something like that, it’s mentally draining.”

Women’s Basketball

Allie Tylka, a freshman guard at the time when COVID-19 shut everything down, was with the team when they exited the first round of the 2020 C-USA tournament after a 95-67 loss to UTEP. “It was kind of weird to be going home on a plane the day that they said everything shut down,” she said.

Tylka thought it was weird how she didn’t have a mask at the time and now it’s mandatory to wear one.

“It’s funny to see how different things have become, but I feel like just always being safe in my surroundings, knowing to use hand sanitizer, wearing masks, keeping myself safe, and making sure I know the people I’m surrounding myself with are trying to be safe too because you never know where they’ve been,” Tylka said.

What was difficult for Tylka was the quarantining and uncertainty throughout the season when the team returned to play the 2020-2021 season. Changes were constant as Tylka was quarantined with another teammate for about four days in September.

“Throughout the season, it was also just difficult just because it was so different and I know a few times, we missed a few games and we only got to make up one of the sets that we missed,” Tylka said. “It was just the uncertainty of not knowing what was going to happen.” 

Had the pandemic not occurred, Tylka thinks the team could’ve had better chemistry as they didn’t have much of an offseason to start working with one another.

“I think everyone did a pretty good job last year of just improving on their own during the pandemic so that was good to see,” Tylka said. “It would have been nice to have a normal season where we didn’t have to worry about all that.”

Tylka felt the pandemic made it harder for her academically as in-person classes help her pay attention, have her stay on top of everything, and provide a consistent schedule.

“I think it’s just easier to have that schedule where I know ‘okay, I go practice and then go to class.’ Between or after whatever work with online classes a lot of them won’t even live their video stream so it was up to you when you were going to watch,” Tylka said. “You had to see how to fit time in and make sure you’ve dedicated time to watching that class so it made it a little bit harder to have enough free time but at the same time, you have to make yourself do it.”

Tylka explained the impact COVID-19 had on her as it made her realize that people sometimes come and go. “I realized I used to go on with my life, not really focusing on where I’ve been, what I touched, and who I’m with when I should actually be more conscious of that,” she said.


Junior middle blocker Vanda Zimova was in Miami Dade College when the pandemic shut everything down as she felt it was weird to be in her apartment there for three months as a result.

“We went outside the house just for a ride in the car after like a month and we were just like, ‘oh my god, we are outside, we see other people,’” Zimova explained. “My parents were worried but I didn’t really panic; I tried to keep a cool head.”

Zimova’s biggest difficulty going through it was not having a consistent routine to manage her college life.

“I still had online classes but I had to manage my time on my own; with everything just shut down and I couldn’t go to practice, go to [in-person] classes, see other people, and be with my coach, that was the hardest thing,” Zimova said.

Zimova was not a fan of online classes as she likes interacting with the professor and classmates in person. With classes being online, it forced her to study more than usual and spend more time thinking about them even when she’s not at the classes.

“It was just assignments so I kind of almost forgot I’m going to school because I was just doing everything from home,” Zimova said. “I am super excited for classes to be back in person and to actually get the sense of actual school because it’s good for me to come to class, see the professor, and ask classmates some things.”

Zimova believed that the pandemic left a big mental impact on people, not being able to meet with one another when quarantining is ongoing. 

“I think we should talk about this more like the mental side because I think so many people didn’t handle it well or they fall into depression like a lot of young people,” Zimova said.

Despite the pandemic hardships, Zimova prefers to go through it in the United States rather than in Europe, where her hometown is in Snina, Slovakia. “When my friends tell me how it looks in Europe back home that they actually can’t even go out, it just makes me realize how lucky I am to be here,” she said.

Editor’s Note: This story is a part of our “One Year Later” special newsletter issue, which you can view here.

Richard Pereira is the Sports Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Rich26Pereira.