The Life of an International Student-Athlete During COVID-19

Pumi Maphumulo is an IVCC student from South Africa and is one of the many students trying to balance school and sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pumi Maphumulo, IV Leader Staff

Life as an athlete in 2020 has been a roller coaster ride and has been very difficult to deal with. I say this because sports are my life, whether I’m playing sports or watching sports, but as long as it is sports related.

When we first went into lockdown here in South Africa, I thought I’d give it a few weeks and things would be back to normal, so I didn’t do much in terms of exercising.

Unfortunately, the lockdown period got extended week after week and month after month and that broke me mentally as I found it hard to train when I didn’t know how long I would be training for. We didn’t even know if we would play any form of sports in 2020, so that made it really hard to stay focused and determined.  

It wasn’t until the 4th of November that I played sports for the first time, as the government had given us permission to train again as the gyms started opening and the restrictions went down.

We had to keep as much distance as we could, so that meant we couldn’t do drills too close to one another. We were playing in a public area, which meant that there would be eyes on us at all times and during a pandemic, some people would have something to say if they didn’t see any form of social distancing as we were told. 

As restrictions went down our training sessions got better and eventually, we were permitted to play matches with crowds, being allowed at certain venues with a high capacity to encourage social distancing.

We as players had to place a lot of trust in one another to not spread the virus, as matches come with close contact which comes with the risk of getting the coronavirus. I feel like a lot of players were so happy to be able to play that the thought of getting COVID-19 didn’t cross their minds at all and, personally, I felt the same after waiting from March until November to play.  

The whole COVID-19 situation has played a major role in preventing me from participating in any major tournaments, whether it may be on the soccer field, tennis courts, or astro turf for field hockey. Normally for soccer we would travel to different areas and for hockey I would be able to play in different countries. It was really tough.

Being told that everything would be cancelled this year made me realize that anything can be taken away from me, so I need to appreciate all that I have while I have it, such as family and friends. 

Studying online has been really interesting as it’s my first time and I feel like I could’ve done better with my time management. I feel like I just never allowed myself time to take a break as I’ve had classes the whole year and during the break, but I did feel that it was important to try and get through as many classes as I could while I had the time.  

I will try to get back to the States, but it’s really about how we as a country handle this COVID-19 situation as well as how our own provinces deal with the numbers.

A few close relatives have been really sick and in and out of hospital, so hopefully all of that gets sorted out soon as well as for anyone else who may be going through the same thing.

I have a few close friends that have asthma, so they believe that they’re in serious risk 24/7 and hopefully the vaccines come soon.  There have been events which have increased the amount of cases so that has been stopped now as well as other sporting tournaments, so we will see what the President says later in the month.  

This year has been a real learning curve and eye opener, so I hope we all make it safely into 2021 and my condolences to those that have lost friends and family members this year. Please stay safe and I look forward to seeing some of you guys again soon.