Sports

There’s No Place Like Home for the Quarantine: Furman Soccer’s Shaun Joash (‘23)

International student athletes face unique challenges this winter break as COVID-19 cases rise around the world.

Joash, a SOCON all freshman selection last year, faces new challenges as he prepares for the spring season. Furman Athletics

While many Furman students call Greenville home, the university boasts a significant international population. Furman Soccer’s Shaun Joash is one of several international student-athletes from the United Kingdom (UK). Joash was born and raised in West London, and is looking forward to being home for the holidays. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens and uncertainty looms, this year’s extended winter break and its vaguely defined end date are sources of stress for many international student-athletes like Joash. This anxiety was only heightened by the UK’s recent announcement of new national restrictions as the nation experiences a surge in coronavirus cases. Bars, restaurants, gyms, and other non-essential businesses must close for at least four weeks. Complicating matters further, all international travel to and from the UK is currently banned, with the exception of necessary travel for work and school.

At the moment, Joash is not too concerned about the implications of the renewed lockdown on his fellow British teammates. “We’re UK citizens, so we should definitely be able to go back home, even if that means a two-week quarantine in self-isolation. But worse comes to worst, there are people I can find to stay with here, like teammates.” 

Whether at home or in the United States (US), staying in shape and being well-prepared for the spring without team training will be especially difficult. Because UK gyms and training centers will be closed, international Paladins have an additional challenge when it comes to completing their workouts over the two-month break. The soccer coaches have been working diligently with strength-training specialists to craft a workout program for the boys to adhere to. Each player will receive workout bands to bring home, and they will also be required to submit regular run times. Joash is already mentally preparing for this additional responsibility: “I have to be really focused to stay on top of my one-on-one training, which is more difficult because I’m used to training in groups. It’s gonna be a change, but I think I can maintain my fitness and come back ready for the season.”

The canceled fall soccer season has been tentatively rescheduled for this spring, and although Joash is sure he will make it home for the holidays, he is less confident that he’ll be back at Furman in time for the pre-season. If the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen, the UK might not allow international flights to leave the country — or worse, the US might not allow them to enter. “If I wasn’t able to get back over here… That would be terrible. I would have to do online school, I obviously wouldn’t be able to take part in the season, and I wouldn’t be doing anything [soccer]-wise in England because of the lockdown. That would be a tough situation, and I would just try to get here as quick as I could.”

Despite these potential challenges, the players remain optimistic. If all goes to plan, they will return to begin training on January 10 and their first game will take place in early February. Furman is slated to play 10 Southern Conference teams in a round-robin style tournament. Joash fully expects the season to take place, and expressed hope that a reduced-size NCAA tournament will create the perfect environment for Furman to achieve new heights. “We’ve actually got a really good shot at getting close to the national championship because of the reduced amount of teams and smaller tournament size. We should be able to make a run for it! We’ve got a great team this year as well, so I’m excited about it.” If Furman Soccer’s Purple and White Scrimmages are any indicator, the rest of the student body should be excited, too. The soccer team has been working diligently to maintain their skills during this unexpected off-season, so as long as all of the players are able to get home and back this winter, we can look forward to a stellar spring season.

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