East Lansing, MI – The coronavirus pandemic has presented numerous challenges across the world and country; many areas, including Michigan, were forced to quarantine for an extended period.
It's taken a toll on people, and staying inside all day with not much to do or look forward to can be unhealthy.
Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo is well aware of the obstacles others have faced since the beginning of 2020, and he's taken it upon himself to focus on his players' mental health.
"Well, we're talking to them a lot about it ... we're trying to engage our players a lot more in conversations that aren't just basketball," Izzo told reporters Thursday afternoon.
Izzo, entering his 26th season as head coach of the Spartans, is worried his players are just "laying in an apartment" all day.
"At least I get to come to work. If you remember back to your college days, if you were sitting in a dorm room or a small apartment, and you can't ever move," said Izzo. "That's not good; that's not healthy. So, we're trying to get them out a little bit more."
But how is he attempting to break up the monotony of everyday life?
They've brought ping pong and pool tables into the arena so guys can build chemistry off the court and provide players with something outside of basketball.
"We've had a meeting every week with former players by Zoom ... we've had a couple of speakers on the social injustices and things that we've had to deal with there. We've just tried to stay involved. We've even got a book club going," Izzo said.
Ultimately, it comes down to keeping them "occupied" while providing his seniors with a season they won't forget.
"How can we give them an experience that they'll remember. That's what the coaches are working on a lot. Not as many X's and O's – just taking care of the 'Johnny's and Joe's,' to say the least."
The Hall of Famer isn't a "psychologist," by any means, but he's learned quite a bit.
"Trying to figure out how to push, how to understand, how to comfort, and how to prod," said Izzo. "It's a balancing act right now, as hard as it is for adults to figure out how to deal with this. When you think of going to college ... it's your first time away from home.
"Mom's not telling you what time to be in, and dad's not telling you what to do. And now they are kind of strapped in an apartment with nowhere to go. That's difficult."
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