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For coaching husbands, ‘joy of working with young athletes has been stripped away from us’

Coronavirus impact: For Coleman Lee, the shutdown has upended the rhythms of life for him and his husband, both volleyball coaches.

Coleman Lee, left, and Garrett Case are married and coach the women’s team at Central Methodist University in Missouri.

Outsports is asking LGBTQ people in sports how they are impacted by the coronavirus crisis and its effects on all aspects of daily life. Today: Coleman Lee, coach of the Central Methodist University women’s volleyball team in Missouri. Lee coaches the team with his husband, Garrett Case. Lee was his conference’s coach of the year this past season.

The coronavirus outbreak has became less about an illness and more about a way of life.

Within days we went from limited activities with both our club and collegiate players to no contact at all. For Garrett and I, our relationship and our everyday life have always included volleyball. It’s the sport we both love and it’s the basis of our careers.

The joy of the sport and excitement of working with young athletes has been stripped away from us. Prior to the outbreak we spent five days a week in individual and positional sessions with our girls at Central Methodist, two days a week at club practices, worked out twice a week with our athletes and had tournaments every weekend, not including the few nights a week we enjoy taking a break from coaching and while also participating in adult open gyms.

For the past two weeks, the only volleyball-related activity we have been able to engage in is the occasional pepper session (a two-person volleyball drill) with each other. I can’t put into words what it feels like to lose the face-to-face interaction with our athletes. These girls are like our daughters and mean the world to us.

We have resorted to platforms like Instagram and Zoom just to keep in touch with our girls and document workouts. Garrett and I are lucky that we enjoy other outdoor activities such as tennis and hikes, giving us other ways to spend our time.

I feel sorry for those who are not only confined to their homes, but also don’t have someone to spend this time of isolation with or activities to keep them busy.

Coleman Lee and Garrett Case with their Central Methodist University volleyball team that won the conference title this season.

Although volleyball-related activities with our girls — both club- and collegiate-related — have been taken away from us, we will continue to look for ways to reach and connect with our athletes.

Most people don’t realize how hard social distancing can be for athletes or their coaches. I have heard people say that kids must be living it up continuing their education through online platforms. The truth is that players and coaches alike are struggling from the lack of interaction caused by this virus.

It’s human nature to socialize and having that taken away drastically changes day to day life. I hope that all coaches use this opportunity to show their athletes what they are worth outside of the court, field or gym.

These kids need our support now more than ever. Some have had conference and national tournaments canceled, others have missed the majority of their schedules and some fear that their upcoming season will be postponed.

As mentors and leaders of these athletes, I feel it is our responsibility to lift their spirits and set their sights on future goals versus dwelling on the current situation of the world that surrounds us.

For those involved in athletics, this is just another game on the schedule, match on the agenda and hurdle on the track. As with everything else, let’s work together and bring home a win.

Coleman Lee, 33, is head women’s volleyball coach at Central Methodist University and also runs the H2 Columbia Volleyball Club. He can be reached via email clee@centralmethodist.edu and on Instagram (@colemanj32)

Garrett Case, 24, is assistant women’s volleyball coach at Central Methodist University and has also coached club volleyball for six years. He can be reached via email gcase@centralmethodist.edu and on Instagram (gcase1470)

Read the coming out stories of Coleman and Garrett.

If you are an LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell us how the coronavirus crisis has affected your life, email Jim Buzinski (kandreeky@gmail.com).