MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — With COVID-19 throwing a wrench into daily lives around the world, technology and social media have become even more important tools.
At Middle Tennessee, social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and video communication apps like Zoom and FaceTime are being utilized for hours a day to do everything from holding athletics staff and coaches meetings to checking in with student-athletes living across the country and world.
“It has actually been pretty seamless,” MT Associate Athletic Director of Communications Mark Owens said. “The athletic staff has been doing Zoom meetings since we started working remotely, and almost all of our teams have done the same thing with their players. It’s gone really well.
“Our coaches can still meet with their players and see their faces and our student-athletes can still learn and advance academically. Without this technology advancement, we would be relying more on our website and emailing … but now, they have a visual. It’s not like being in the same room with them, but it’s close.”
Middle Tennessee students are finishing the semester’s classes online. Making sure student-athletes are meeting their requirements in the classroom and staying on top of their schoolwork has been quite the job for the MT Student-Athlete Enhancement Center.
“We’ve used hotspots, laptops, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime — all those things have come into play,” Enhancement Center Director Todd Wyant said. “We’ve had to adjust, but the faculty have been very supportive. … We’ve even mailed laptops home to student-athletes with hotspots — we’ve really had to make sure everyone is taken care of and has access.
“Snail mail just wouldn’t have gotten this done, and that’s the key to it. … The technology just gives us a better understanding of what everyone is doing.”
Some coaches have had little difficulty adjusting to the new norms. For those who’ve had a tougher time, they have technological experts they can utilize: their players.
“We’re using Zoom every day with our coaches … and we’re checking in with our players daily on Zoom and FaceTime,” football coach Rick Stockstill said. “That’s different, because I feel like I’m talking to myself on there.”
“We have a Zoom meeting every Tuesday and Thursday to talk about academics and whatever is happening in the world with the pandemic,” softball coach Jeff Breeden said. “This bunch of kids grew up with technology, and they know how to do stuff technology-wise a lot better than I do. I think they navigate it all pretty easily.”
Having the capability to interact with coaches, student-athletes and athletic and university staff while practicing social distancing has been crucial for all of Middle Tennessee Athletics. For example, Director of Athletics Chris Massaro recently connected with fans on Twitter.
Director of Athletics Chris Massaro joins us as he discusses C-USA meetings, the plan for the extra year of eligibility for MT student-athletes, how the NCAA Tournament being canceled affected revenue for the Blue Raiders, and more.#BlueRaiders | #MT pic.twitter.com/74bhKzE2iZ
— MT Athletics (@MTAthletics) April 17, 2020
Owens is one who’s grown an even greater appreciation for the technology the department is able to utilize, and he can’t imagine what would’ve happened if COVID-19 hit before the social media age.
“If this happened 20 years ago, we could never do the things we are able to do now with technology being so advanced,” he said. “Social media did not exist, there was no Zoom and the video and phones were definitely not as advanced.
“As far as athletic communications and our operation goes, I can’t even imagine how much harder it would be to convey our message and reach our fans. During this time, our staff has produced a lot of content from features to videos to various engaging aspects on social media. We have also had tremendous support from our coaches and student-athletes. … Twenty years ago, it would not be this easy, so clearly one bright spot in all this is the advanced technology.
“We still have a couple of neat things planned once we perfect a few things, and our fans should really enjoy them.”
While they can’t have physical contact with each other, it’s clear the Blue Raiders are doing all they can to stay connected. Today’s technology sure does help.