Connor Shaw Draws From Personal Experience To Help Keep Players' Spirits High

Chaunte'l Powell

The COVID-19 outbreak have left coaches and athletes in uncharted territory.

College coaches have had to get creative with how to reach their players without being near them.

Connor Shaw has the added challenge of adjusting to his new position as South Carolina’s Director of Player Development while trying to support the team. Shaw said it’s been a bit of a challenge, but he’s managing.

“Obviously everyone’s getting creative with daily updates and trying to relay the message to the players in the middle of moving from Greenville with two small kids,” he said in an interview with Sports Illustrated. “My family’s healthy and together so everybody’s just playing it by the wait and see approach.”

He likened this period to dealing with an injury, which he knows about having suffering a gruesome leg injury during his professional stint with the Chicago Bears.

“It is. Like you said, you’re limited on what you can do, you don’t have access to a weight room or a gym or the nutrition buffet that they have every day that they have at the facility,” he said.

Still, Shaw has forged on and came up with ways to keep his team engaged, including a video game tournament where players can face each other in Madden. Shaw said the idea was to keep their spirits as high as possible.

“The idea came from these guys are probably facing a lot of frustration, a lot of uncertainty” he said. “These guys still have a very busy schedules where our academic advisors are keeping up with them and they’re navigating a daily routine that they’re not used to.”

He noted that one of the biggest issues student-athletes are facing right now is the inability to stick to their regular routine, which is a key component in competing at the collegiate level.

“Every athlete is used to a very regimented scheduled from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed,” he said. “Now they’re their own bosses and trying to stay productive from what they can control.”

Shaw has also had to take into consideration the background and home life of the student athletes. He said that while everyone’s family may not be able to provide the same amenities, they have all been able to stay connected.

“Fortunately everyone on the team has a cell phone and you can use that cell phone for Zoom meetings, for FaceTime,” he said. “We have an app called Learn To Win where we can post playbooks. We have an app called Team Works where we can send out a bunch of information. And these guys FaceTime each other all the time. They like to keep up with each other.”

 The mental and emotional wellbeing of athletes in all sports at all levels has been a concern during this time as young presumably healthy athletes having to stay indoors and not practice their craft can be draining.

Shaw said he tells his players to dwell on two questions each day; “how can I stay busy and what are my constants?”