Players’ mental health is Silverfield’s priority during COVID-19

Ryan Silverfield prioritizes players' mental health during COVID-19.
Ryan Silverfield prioritizes players' mental health during COVID-19.(WMC)
Updated: Apr. 10, 2020 at 8:07 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - About a third of the Memphis Tiger Football team is still in Memphis because it’s the safest place to be during the coronavirus pandemic. According to head coach Ryan Silverfield, his priority is checking in on his guys because this is real life and much bigger than football.

“Every day when we get a chance we try to check on our guys as often as possible and probably to the point where we probably annoy them, but we worry about their health,” Silverfield said. “Every day when we talk to our guys whether it’s over text or FaceTime, it’s hey, how’s your family, how are you feeling is everything good?”

When things shut down, Silverfield and his staff encouraged players to go home if it was safe. But he said for a lot of the players, Memphis is the best place. However, now he’s managing players anywhere from three to 300 miles away.

“You worry about their welfare. If they are home, or somebody is laid off in their family, their check may be going to help feed their little brother,” Silverfield said. “And you say if this thing continues to go on, are they getting enough to eat, are they being able to provide toilet paper for their family? Those are all realities of it.”

Memphis provides one training table meal for lunch for those that are still in town and live in off-campus housing. It’s set up outside so there’s little to no interaction with the staff. Then it’s back home where life has turned into a lot of self-accountability. Student-athletes still need to pass classes to be eligible and stay in shape for when things can start back up. Giving Silverfield a new way to show his players, just how much he cares.

“It’s not my job for them to like me, but it’s my job for them to respect me and know that I have their best interest at heart and sometimes I have to be that stern father figure, their coach, their friend, their bigger brother,” he said

Silverfield encouraged his coaches to get creative with how the connect with the players. He said a common misconception is that since there’s no practice, there’s more time. Silverfield says it’s the exact opposite. They use Zoom to watch film and have meetings. He also makes a plan every week assuming they’ll get to start. A lot of those plans have been thrown away, but he’ll keep doing it until they get the green light to go.

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