Pandemic Diaries: A day in the COVID-19 life of a Mercer football operations intern

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Image: Jen Jones

After having worked as a student operations intern for Mercer Football since 2017, senior sports marketing and analytics major John-Allen Stone developed expectations for what his senior season would look like.

“I was really disappointed that we were not able to play our full, regular season. It kind of threw my life off-balance,” Stone said.

Alongside a significantly shortened season, Stone also lamented a cancelled game against Vanderbilt in his native Tennessee.

“I grew up going to Vanderbilt games, so that would have been a cool and unique experience,” he said.

In the midst of this disappointment, Stone and the rest of Mercer football’s staff had to innovate new methods to safely play football. A day in Stone’s life reveals the depth of these measures.

7:30 A.M.

Stone wakes up, beginning his day by bringing breakfast from the Fresh Food Company to any COVID-positive players. After this, he goes into his office to prepare itineraries and other important materials for the team.

“My job is anything and everything that makes both the players’ and coaches’ lives easier,” Stone said.

10:00 A.M.-1:00 P.M. 

Stone briefly sets aside his football duties to attend class, but his world is still very much composed of sports. Classes like sports economics, sports professional selling and sports sponsorship sales occupy the interim.

2:00 P.M.

Before Stone and his coworkers enter the facility to do their work, numerous precautions are taken. Coaches, players and student assistants are tested weekly. No one with COVID-19 symptoms is allowed to enter the football complex, and masks are always required.

Once these measures have been accounted for, Stone and other student assistants prepare water and coolers for the players. They also distribute prepackaged snacks.

As a final pre-practice precaution, Stone ensures that splash guards are properly secured to all of the helmets. Once practice is finished, Stone sanitizes equipment like shoulder pads, helmets and balls.

“After practice, it takes a lot of time to clean up because we are sanitizing every single thing that someone has touched,” Stone said.

6:30 P.M.

Stone again delivers a meal to COVID-positive players. After that, he continues his operations work. If there are lulls in his responsibilities, he can focus on studying and homework.

“I just have to find a way to make it work,” Stone said. “Even if that means staying up until 2:00 in the morning.”

Stone said that football was only able to adjust so easily to COVID-19 because of a collective effort from numerous offices on campus. He highlighted Housing and Residence Life, Mercer Dining and Mercer Athletics for keeping a plan in mind throughout this semester.

“They’ve been understanding of our situation and our efforts,” Stone said.

Collaboration like this ensures that football and other pieces of our normal lives can still exist amidst a pandemic.