Coaches Column: Jeremy Thornburg

By Coach Jeremy Thornburg (TheLorian)

March 11, 2020 was the last time that we competed on the court. It is not necessarily the game I want to always remember or desired outcome; however, it is the time that I now most cherished. Within two days our season and the careers of two of our seniors, Joe Berka and Ian Walsh, and countless athletes on campus and in the country was over. We went from playing a match to not playing together again within 24 hours. I know this is not unique to us, but it does hit differently for everyone. Though the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and we never imagined how much it would affect us, it is here.

Whether we like it or not, we have to confront it. I have been challenging our team in the last few weeks with two questions.

Do we want to continue to use this pandemic as a crutch and excuse?

OR…. Do we want to use it as an opportunity?

I think that we have a unique opportunity to learn new ways to tackle coaching our respective sports. We have a new way to speak with and meet with our teams. There are new chances to learn and develop team bonding and events. Recruiting can be modified, adapted, and reinvigorated. There is even more chances to be grateful and appreciative of when we are able to be together and play volleyball. What are we going to do with each new day?

Personally, I have had to learn how to adapt my life to different health issues. I do not make myself a walking billboard, but I have Crohn’s Disease. Easiest way to sum it up is an autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive system, especially the small and large intestines and possibly all throughout my body. I have stages where I am in great control due to diet and medication, and other times that it is debilitating and hard to function. Needless to say, in the beginning this pandemic was terrifying and emotionally and mentally taxing. I was labeled to be in the high-risk population. I had to leave my team on Friday, March 13 and did not get to tell them goodbye. I was not able to give them hugs as they left campus. I sat in my apartment, besides leaving four times for groceries for almost 7 weeks. No family. No personal contact with friends or my team. It hit hard and put many things into perspective.

I learned a lot about others and myself during that time. After a lot of reflection, some pessimism, and almost losing hope in people, I decided to take the route that I did many years ago. I have a choice. I can use my Crohn’s disease as an excuse or crutch, or I can use it as an opportunity to teach and grow. I am going to use this pandemic as the latter. It hasn’t been a perfect transition. It hasn’t been easy and I haven’t done everything right as a coach. However, I am not going to make excuses and am going to try new ways to teach, come up with new activities, find new lessons in hardships, and allow my team to grow and become that powerhouse of a program we aspire to be.

Having a lot of youth is sometimes considered a curse, but I now consider it is a blessing. This group has endured so much in their young careers and adult lives and we can take that adversity and use it as a lesson of strength, endurance, optimism, faith, and belief. I believe that no Duhawk or fellow human that I know would ultimately wish ill will or bad health on another. I also know there are not perfect answers to combat this, but there are many good ways to show you care. Wear your masks. Practice social distancing. Wash hands and sanitize. We aren’t just repeating these things for fun. Just remember that not everyone can decide what health challenges face us. I cannot choose to have Crohn’s disease or not. However, I can trust everyone to care and do everything possible for all of us to do what we love every single day. Whether it is coaching, being a student, playing a sport you love, or anything that you are passionate about, be optimistic! Let’s not use this as a crutch or excuse, but an opportunity to grow and learn and show love for one another.

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Jon is currently a junior who is double-majoring in Media Studies and Public Relations. He is heavily involved at Loras as a campus photographer, residential adviser, and a sports editor for the school newspaper, The Lorian.

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