Where the caged Longhorns moo: How Longhorn athletes past and present deal with staying inside

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Sophomore Serenity Douglas leads the Texas women's 4x400 relay to a season-best time at the NCAA Indoor Championships on Saturday. The women’s 4x400 relay team won eighth place with a total time of 3:33.06.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

The world has been without sports for nearly a month and a half, and fans have been looking for anything to fill the void. Multiple channels have played classic games, ESPN hosted an NBA 2K tournament and fans have gotten a seemingly endless amount of Twitch streams from their favorite athletes. 

For some, the beginning of the pandemic was surreal. Even as cancellations and suspensions of games and leagues as a whole began filing in, it took time for the new reality to set in. 

“I saw that things were getting canceled, but I just kind of felt like that can't affect us,” senior Texas sprinter Serenity Douglas said. “When you see it happening, you don't think that's gonna happen to (you).”

As the coronavirus pandemic began affecting the sports world, it had different effects on different people. Many of Douglas’ Longhorn teammates who are natives of Caribbean islands weren’t able to go home immediately. Douglas was fortunate to be able to go home to Georgia but still feels for her teammates. 

“When you're in a situation, it's just kind of like, things can't get any worse than how they are right now,” Douglas said. “They just can't because it doesn't make any sense. That’s like a movie or something. And then it just did.”

Douglas is now back in Georgia living with her parents, which has been a noticeable change from the ever-busy schedule of an in-season student-athlete. 

“I haven't been home in four years during the springtime in Georgia, so that's really odd to me,” Douglas said. “But it’s been good catching up on family time and getting on each other's nerves.”

But just as Douglas has felt the change, other Longhorns — current and former — have also felt the impact of the pandemic. 

Orlando Magic center Mohamed Bamba would have spent the last month gearing up for a playoff run. Instead, Bamba and the rest of the NBA are put on hold.

“Our team was starting to peak at the right time, just like we did my rookie year, and I want to experience that playoff atmosphere again,” Bamba said in an email. “It’s a whole different level, and there are things you can only learn by being around the guys who are competing at that playoff level.”

For most of the athletes, the biggest difference is not having the game or match to look forward to. However, they are still training and preparing as if the season would resume tomorrow.

“I've been doing live workout videos for some of the volleyball girls in the North Texas region,” former UT volleyball star Micaya White said. “So I go (to my friend’s gym) and do that, and that takes up a lot of my time. I do that about three to five times a week.”

White, who was playing professionally in Puerto Rico when the pandemic began, is now back in Dallas and has been adjusting to her new normal. Outside of training, the majority of her days are taken up by hit Netflix shows such as “Ozark” and “Love Is Blind.”

“I (realized) how much I really don't leave the house because even though we were in quarantine, I didn't feel very much different,” White said. “I felt like I was doing the same thing that I've been doing.”

During this time, many have found extra family time to be the silver lining. Whether it’s watching new series or creating TikTok videos, the time with loved ones has brought a certain sense of relief. 

“It’s been great to spend more time with my mom and sister, who I don’t get to see much during the season,” Bamba said. “We feel very lucky that COVID hasn’t impacted our family at all, and that’s more than a lot of people can say, especially folks from my hometown of New York City.”

Despite navigating through times like this, there is a yearning for normality. And for White, she already has her first post-pandemic trip planned.

“I need to go to the nail salon,” White said. “That’s the first thing I need to do.”