USU AD John Hartwell: Aggies Doing Everything To Support Student-Athlete Mental Health

Mar 20, 2020, 12:17 PM | Updated: 12:22 pm
Utah State Athletics - John Hartwell...
Utah State Vice President and Director of Athletics John Hartwell (Photo by Deseret News)
(Photo by Deseret News)

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State basketball had its NCAA Tournament berth ripped away when coronavirus put a hard stop on all sports, which has to be heartbreaking to all of those athletes.

Each school is handling things differently from an academic to an athletic side and Aggie athletics director John Hartwell joined KSL Unrivaled about this unprecedented situation and how losing sports is sad but not as bad as what is going on outside the world of sports.

“I won’t say we are flying by the seat of our pants but it definitely has not been in any AD textbooks. It changes by the minute and you have to be flexible and willing to change,” Hartwell said. “The overarching principles have to be, ‘what can we do to protect folks.’

“It’s sad that Sam Merrill … and company can’t play in the NCAA Tournament and we can’t have spring football. Those things are inconsequential to people passing away and being severely affected by the coronavirus.”

Hartwell is right that sports are at the bottom of the barrel when looking at the big picture of everything else going on and you can be sad for both.

How Are The Aggies Handling This?

With this being a once in a generation occurrence, coaches are interacting with the student-athletes to calm them down during this unprecedented situation.

“It is a range of emotions because the initial reaction, ‘oh this is unbelievable, and I would never imagine this.’ Two to three weeks ago and even up to a week ago, most of us would not have imagined such consequences,” Hartwell said. “As it sinks in and you hear of people being gravely ill or passing away, that takes a whole new meaning to it.”

The big change was when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and actor Tom Hanks got the virus it changed a lot of how people perceived COVID-19 and that a bigger threat was looming with well-known people getting sick.

“All of a sudden this thing went from being a faceless virus to these are not only real names associated with this but these are heroes to a lot of people,” Hartwell added. “I think that flip the script for a lot of people.”

With quick action to shut down sports leagues and events, the next phase was how Utah State and other universities were going to support the athletes and students whose semester ended so abruptly, especially those who can not go home.

“What do you do for the individuals whether it be financially or circumstantially can’t’ go home right now? How do you handle those kids?” Hartwell asked. “You can’t say, ‘you live in Lehi, Orem or places that people can still get to but you live in Portugal.’ If are Neemias Queta or Diogo Brito and you live in Portugal and can’t just hop on a bus or an hour flight to get those places.

“How do we make sure we take care of those folks? The last two or three years that has been a focal point for the NCAA, rightfully so, has been mental wellness,” Hartwell added. “Now, all of a sudden you through this wrench in there and people are not struggling with anxiety with shooting a free throw, or the other end of the spectrum with depression or an eating disorder.”

Also, Hartwell feels extremely sad for those student-athletes whose careers ended so abruptly. He understands how for some of these Aggies, it is their last time to suit for Utah State and also possibly playing their sport at a high level. Having no closure like a Senior Night, making a tournament run, or just knowing for sure this is the last time one will prepare for a game has to be heart-breaking.

“Now, the world that I know whether I have chased my dream for the past 15, 16, 20 years, and all of a sudden the rug is pulled out from me, and how do we deal with it,” Hartwell said. “The other issue is that this is a real-world health crisis and how do I deal with that and protect myself and is my family going to be protected.

“These young men and women have all kinds of issues on their plate that we want to try to take care of and address for those who are still here in Logan and can’t go home. Even the ones that have gone home and be able to maintain contact and make sure they are OK mentally.”

This process is not easy for anyone but it seems that Utah State has a solid plan in place to help these students manage what is going on as life has been turned upside down.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast. 

Coronavirus Resources

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.

How To Get Help

If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth service through your healthcare providers.

Additional Resources

If  you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at consumerprotection@utah.gov.

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USU AD John Hartwell: Aggies Doing Everything To Support Student-Athlete Mental Health