Ole athlete creates connections through virtual wellness event
St. Olaf College prides itself on community and the college’s athletic department is no different. In a time where community is hard to find in-person, Lauren Rewers ’20 found a way to bring her fellow student-athletes together while they are apart.
On March 12, the NCAA announced that it was cancelling the remaining winter and spring championships and, the following day, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) canceled all spring sporting events, bringing a premature end to the seasons of collegiate student-athletes across the country.
As a member of the St. Olaf volleyball team that competes in the fall, these decisions did not impact Rewers as much as some of her spring-sport counterparts — but it still hurt.
“I was so devastated when I heard that spring sports were canceled, especially for all of my other friends who are seniors,” says Rewers. “I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to have your senior season canceled after working so hard for so many years.”
After taking some time to process the news and begin to adapt to the new normal, Rewers wanted to find a way for student-athletes to come together and support each other as they navigate these unprecedented times.
“I basically wanted to create a space for student-athletes to share their experiences with losing sports this spring — whether it was their senior season, out-of-season practices, or lifting weights together as a team — and just process together what that has been like,” she says. “A lot of us are going through similar experiences and are trying to mourn the loss of sports during a difficult time, so I wanted us to form a community and have those conversations together instead of feeling more alone during this time.”
As a nursing major at St. Olaf, Rewers has been heavily involved with the Wellness Center as a physical health peer educator and student-athlete liaison.
“I was drawn to the Wellness Center because it was a place where I could combine my passions of education and health/wellness,” she says. “I have tried to do a lot of work connecting athletics and the Wellness Center by creating student-athlete-specific content that is most relevant to our lives as student-athletes, communicating with coaches about the needs of their teams, and meeting with [St. Olaf Athletic Director] Ryan Bowles to discuss ways that athletics as a whole can utilize resources the Wellness Center has to offer.”
Her involvement with the Wellness Center led Rewers to develop a virtual wellness event titled “COVID-19 and Sports: Processing loss, staying connected, and the impact of sports” that she led through Zoom last Wednesday evening.
Rewers was initially unsure how many student-athletes would attend the event, but it drew approximately 50 student-athletes from at least 13 of St. Olaf’s varsity teams. During the 45-minute meeting, Rewers led the attendees through discussions about what they were missing most, how they were feeling about it, and how to be resilient during these times, as well as ways to stay active and connected to teammates while apart.
“I think it was a great space for student-athletes to process that they aren’t alone and that everyone is experiencing a lot of the same things,” she says. “I think it is really important that we stay connected as a community, give each other space to process our losses, and share how it has impacted us.”
Lisa Fisher ‘20, who saw her senior season on the women’s track field team come to an abrupt end, was one of the many student-athletes to attend the meeting and was grateful to be able to connect with her peers.
“It was helpful to hear from other student-athletes who are experiencing similar things to me at this time,” Fisher says. “Lauren offered helpful tips for navigating the loss of our spring seasons and created a space for us to connect as an athletic community.”
This type of impact was exactly what Rewers was aiming for when she came up with the idea.
“In a time with so much loss, it is easy to feel isolated in our grief,” Rewers says. “My goal was to bring student-athletes together to talk about our shared experiences and process what it has been like to lose sports in this season. The Ole Athletics community has always been really supportive of each other, so I was happy to find a way to bring student-athletes together even when we are spread throughout the country.”