#FocusDisruption is a collaboration of all the media outlets within Montclair State’s School of Communication and Media. Our goal is to report stories that highlight the effects or disruption of the last two years and the solutions that have come out of it. All aspects of day-to-day life have been altered but we will be primarily focusing on how mental health, education and the workplace have changed.
The Montclair State University women’s soccer team had its stellar season cut short in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Hope was lost and a sense of confusion overcame senior defender Kylinn Kraemer who went through unimaginable troubles.
Before the pandemic, Kraemer was an important asset to the team. She played extensive minutes for the Red Hawks in her first two seasons, starting in a career-high 16 games in 2019. Unfortunately, she suffered an ACL tear in her right knee in January 2021 during a pick-up soccer game.
The injury would cause her to miss two seasons of soccer — the COVID-19 shortened spring 2021 season and because it was only seven months after her surgery, a “normal” fall 2021 season as well. For Kraemer, there was a feeling of despair of not being able to play the sport she loved along with being isolated from her friends and family due to the restrictions.
Despite both the injury and the pandemic weighing her down, Kraemer believes there were some upsides.
“Most importantly, we were forced to actually consider our own health,” Kraemer said. “I personally went through all of the normal challenges that the pandemic brought, but also I tore my ACL during this time. I think the pandemic prepared me to better handle this injury.”
However, it was not an easy journey to reach that mindset. Being isolated from her teammates and having to better herself physically also comes with a mental toll.
Kraemer’s time recuperating did not go unnoticed by her teammates.
Freshman defender Emmi Denovellis was one of those teammates who was inspired by Kraemer’s mental fortitude during her time away from the field.
“She’s a tough kid. She went through her ACL injury her junior through senior year,” Denovellis said. “She’s very helpful in the way she guides all of us on the field and motivates us to keep going and not give up.”
Going through an injury can be hard for an athlete in normal circumstances but going through it when the world seems to be broken too, makes the process even more difficult.
“It was hard with [COVID-19] not being in control with what was going on, and when you’re not able to control what’s in the world around you, all you can control is yourself,” Kraemer said. “And when I got hurt, that took that other part of control away as well. Now with my injury, I wasn’t in control of myself either.”
During physical therapy, she confided heavily in her therapist to guide her through the mental blockages as well. The sense of being alone during the injury and being stuck in lockdown was finally disappearing.
“I started to talk to my therapist to get me through the mental challenges of not being in control of the situation,” Kraemer said. “It was great to have someone to talk about all of the obstacles that [COVID-19] and my injury brought me.”
On campus, numerous resources help students manage their mental health. Kraemer shared that the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), a service provided to students at Montclair State, was one of the biggest supports to her through this time.
“In the past couple of months, we have had some amazing speakers come to talk to us about different mental health challenges we face especially as athletes,” Kraemer said. “I personally have been extremely grateful to CAPS for helping me through tough times and I highly recommend seeking their assistance if you are a student at [Montclair State].”
Seeking out assistance from CAPS resulted in a new mindset for Kraemer. With the injury, there was a sense of hopelessness, but guidance through the department resulted in her finding a new role for her team while still being injured.
“[My therapist] helped me accept my new role on the team … by supporting them on the sideline and [making sure] not to rush myself with my injury, and also realize I was struggling with my injury a lot because of the aspect of control because I always want to be in control,” Kraemer said. “And my mental health, in general, being able to talk to someone and them giving feedback was super helpful.”
Kraemer also acknowledged that women’s soccer head coach Patrick Naughter is a big advocate for mental health and has created an environment in which discussing the topic is normal.
“Our head coach has always been supportive in regards to mental health, even prior to the pandemic. But, I think COVID-19 brought obstacles concerning mental health to us all, rather than just a few.” Kraemer said. “As these obstacles still continue to affect us, mental health is something that is normalized within our team for sure”
Kraemer was able to grow a sense of self-awareness throughout her time off from the field and seeking out help. She began to understand that the only reason she would come back to play was if she was fully comfortable with herself.
“It hasn’t been hard coming back just because I feel confident after all the rehab I’ve done in the past years,” Kraemer said. “You just have to do it. If you put in half effort or play scared, that’s how you get hurt.”
With Kraemer concluding her senior year here at Montclair State, there’s the question of whether she will come back for her fifth year and continue to hold the defensive line for the women’s soccer team.
The answer is yes.
“I felt that my last two years were stripped from me,” Kraemer said. “I [want] to end my time here as an athlete on my terms and prove to myself that I could be resilient and come back from it all. And to have fun. So far it has all been completely worth it.”