Georgia defensive specialist Brynn Chandler (12) serves. The Georgia volleyball team lost to the University of Missouri Tigers 3-1 on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

Georgia volleyball’s senior defensive specialist Brynn Chandler thought shoulder injury rehab would be her biggest obstacle in 2020. Now, she navigates how to play a team sport without her team.

Chandler has been adjusting to working out from home. Gym closures have led to receiving equipment in the mail, running up backyard hills and watching film on Zoom to break down plays and visualize scenarios.

“They’ve figured out a way to have us still do stuff, but it’s obviously not the same,” said Chandler. “As far as volleyball skills go, there’s not a lot you can do, especially alone.”

Even though Chandler is away from her teammates and coaches, she has a pretty good coach at home. Her father, Chris Chandler, was a quarterback in the NFL for 17 seasons, including leading the Atlanta Falcons to Super Bowl XXXIII.

COVID-19 brought sports to an unexpected halt and canceled them for the foreseeable future. Brynn Chandler is one athlete not currently in season amid cancellations who still feels the effects. Her dad has been able to provide support based on his knowledge and experience.

She continues to train while steering through uncertainty. Georgia volleyball changed current workouts to maintain physical shape despite the possibility that cancellations could stretch into the fall.

“It’s been a rollercoaster,” Chandler said. “We realized our season might get canceled. That’s when it started to get super real. Now, it’s a waiting game.”

Although volleyball was not in season during the COVID-19 outbreak, Chandler discussed the importance of spring training for her team, and the cost of missing it.

Georgia volleyball’s spring training is all about preparation for their season, and Chandler argues it’s almost more grueling than the fall. Her team would start early every morning at 6:45, work out for an hour and practice every day. They would participate in scrimmages, which the team looked forward to during the off-season.

“For us, this is when we get the strongest and this is when we can put the most time into it,” Chandler said. “We lose so much of that now.”

Her dad missed playing time for different reasons during his career, and he understands the toll this takes both physically and mentally. Chandler praised her dad’s guidance, and his ability to help her cope.

“He assures me that my life’s not over and I’m still going to be able to play — it’s just going to be a minute,” Chandler said.

Chandler spent spring break with her family in California. She flew back to Georgia the Thursday before classes resumed to start practice again. Her coaches told them to stop practice halfway through that first session and said everything was done. They sent the team back home that same Thursday night, and Chandler has been there since.

Chandler’s dad helps her stay grounded by reminding her that now she can give attention to other things besides volleyball.

“He always makes sure I don’t put my identity into my sport,” Chandler said. “So now, I focus twice as hard on things I wouldn’t normally have the time to focus on such as family and school.”

She finds it difficult to stay motivated since the fall season’s existence remains in question. Her dad believes that she’ll be reunited with her team soon, and ready to attack her sport when she’s back in Athens.

“I know she really enjoys the University of Georgia,” Chris Chandler said. “I think not being there is going to make her miss it, and will make her work even harder for when she gets back to playing volleyball again.”

Chris Chandler recognized that young athletes can feel bulletproof, and these trying times make them appreciate their physical health. He also feels that COVID-19 will teach resilience and how to bounce back while being stripped of something people once thought would always be there, sports.

“You really realize now how big a part of life sports are now that they’re not happening,” Chandler said. “Like everyone else, I just hope this thing gets under control and we can start back up with sports again soon.”

Brynn Chandler, hoping for a senior season, feels the same way.

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