Athletes swap canceled spring sports for health care work
by Matt Blymier, assistant director of athletics for compliance & athletics communication
Published August 18, 2020
It was an easy decision for two Pennsylvania College of Technology student-athletes, despite myriad emotions following the cancellation of their sports seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic in early March.
They would trade one uniform for another.
Sophomores Connor Burke and Gillian Sinnott returned home when Spring Break was extended, traded in their baseball and softball jerseys for scrubs, and immediately went to work in their respective health service fields, Burke as an emergency room technician near his hometown in Pottsville, and Sinnott as an aide at a nursing home near her hometown of Sykesville, Maryland.
“I was in a position to help make a difference,” Burke, a nursing student, said. “It was an easy decision to help out during this difficult time.”
Sinnott, who is also majoring in nursing, had similar sentiments and left for work almost immediately after she returned home. Her father, who works at the same facility, told her that the nursing home already had some COVID-19 cases, and Sinnott dropped her belongings off at her house and went right to work.
“I want to be able to help people that can’t fully help themselves,” Sinnott explained. “I would want my parents to
be cared for in that situation, so I want to help other people’s parents be cared for and stay safe.”
Sinnott, who aids the staff in serving and caring for residents, had her work plans detoured when her mother, who works at a different nursing home, tested positive for COVID-19. All three Sinnotts quarantined themselves for 14 days. Her mother made a full recovery from mild symptoms, and Sinnott and her father tested negative for the virus.
Burke works three eight-hour shifts per week from 11 p.m.-7 a.m. He works alongside doctors and nurses completing basic, but critical, tasks such as preparing patients for operations, drawing blood and taking vitals.
“It was pretty packed the first few days when I returned,” Burke said of the emergency room. “It was in the early stages of the virus, and we had the normal cases we generally see in the ER and people with COVID symptoms. Once quarantine was imposed and the overall numbers of people infected in the area came down, it’s been less busy.”
Both students had their sports seasons cut short in March when the decision was made to cancel the remainder of the spring season. Burke’s baseball team was off to a 5-5 start – including three straight wins during its Spring Break trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, while Sinnott’s softball team was 5-4 during the trip.
The baseball team had already completed its week when it was told of the decision, while the softball team still had two games to play.
“Everyone was bummed,” Burke saidof his team’s reaction. “We were off to a good start, put a lot of work in with practice and workouts and developed relationships among the team. We wanted to continue what we started, play for a conference championship and play together as a team.”
Sinnott and Burke both see the similarities in being a member of an athletics team and part of a team in the health field. Communication, teamwork, sacrifice and adaptability are skills reinforced by sports and transferred into the workforce.
“Working as a team is a huge thing in the health field,” Sinnott said. “Everything will not always go the way that you might expect, and you need to be able to rely on those around you. Knowing that you have a team behind you makes all the difference.”