Join Joseph’s Journey: Being an Athlete in the Time of COVID-19

Editor’s note: “Join Joseph’s Journey” is a blog written by Joseph Gorin, a Special Olympics Southern California athlete and member of SOSC’s Board of Directors. Joseph, who has cerebral palsy, started training and competing with Special Olympics in 2003. Back then, he was a quiet kid who would barely look people in the eyes. Now, through sports training, he’s become a leader who advocates for people with intellectual disabilities throughout the world. This blog is a first-person account of his experiences and pursuit to become accepted by all.

By Joseph Gorin

Our athletes’ lives have gone through quite a change because of COVID-19—from seeing each other weekly in practices, going out to see movies, hanging out, and chatting about when the next tournament will be and which team we will compete with to…now not seeing each other, no training, no tournaments, and no schedule.

The first two weeks were tough. We were texting each other with many questions and had no answers. The following week was kind of silent. The week after that, we broke the silence with Zoom meetings in small groups among ourselves. We were able to see each other’s sad faces, with the talk of not knowing when we will do anything together again.

Even though there was no answer to many of our questions, we were very glad to chime in together and share our expressions “live.” When we held an unofficial Hawks Team Zoom with the large group, it really showed the importance for continuing this format of meeting.

We also use Zoom for our Gavel Club meetings for Global Messenger speech training. It was quite different to hold a Gavel Club business meeting versus a fun one like with the Hawks. As a president of the Gavel Club, I learned a lot. Our Global Messengers learned a lot, too. We learned the etiquette of Zooming.

One thing we learned from being a speaker in a Zoom meeting is we are looking at ourselves on the camera while we are speaking. If we cheat to have our speech on the screen, we need to adjust the written speech page close to the camera so our eyes will be looking at the camera when we look at the speech.

We adapted the Zoom meeting just like our in-person meeting. We open a “free forum” a half-hour before scheduled meeting time and extend time for a “free forum” when the meeting is adjourned. It gives us an opportunity to chat and vent out our COVID-19 frustrations.

Who knows when training and competitions will return? We understand that our safety as athletes comes first! I am happy to find ways to stay connected to my athlete friends, team members and Global Messengers. It does not seem so lonely when we’re in this together.

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