Northwest Missouri State University women’s basketball coach Austin Meyer performed a routine task last Sunday night he hadn’t been able to do in two weeks – getting his daughter, Mary Claire, into bed.
The day before he got the OK from his doctor to return to normal day-to-day activities after surviving the COVID-19 coronavirus in isolation from his wife Kelsi and their 1 1/2-year-old daughter.
“It was rough mentally,” said Meyer, a Blue Springs High School graduate and former basketball standout for the Wildcats. “My daughter is banging on the door saying ‘Dad!’ It is pretty rough. My wife would leave food at the door and when she’d go away, I’d open and bring it in. We were doing that for I don’t know how many days. It was rough sitting in a room by yourself. You are talking 13 days that my daughter was in the same house as me and I couldn’t even see her. It is one thing to go on vacation or on a business trip and have to FaceTime her. For her to be in the same house and be that close to her and you can’t see her is pretty rough, especially when you can hear her.”
Monday, April 13, marked the two-week mark of when he first started experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. He got tested for the virus on Friday, April 3.
He noted he had a fever for a couple days and didn’t feel the best. He also had chills, sweats, a cough that he couldn’t shake and a headache.
“I had never really been sick, sick,” said Meyer, who has been at Northwest as a player, coach and head coach since 2002 after graduating from Blue Springs. “I never got the flu so I had a feeling this has got to be something. Of course, when you get sick the first thing you think of when you start coughing is ‘shoot, do I have COVID-19?'”
He found out he had it and he was part of a growing number of cases in the state. Nodaway County’s health department listed his positive test as a male between the age of 30-39 who hasn’t traveled recently.
By the time he received the test results back on Sunday, April 5, from Mosaic Life Care in St. Joseph, he was halfway through the illness. He was also self-quarantining at his in-laws’ house in St. Joseph.
“I got into day seven feeling good,” he said. “It’s been really weird for everybody. You don’t think you will get it and I was joking with some friends, don’t complain you are quarantined with your family, it could be a lot worse. You could be stuck in a room by yourself and can’t be around anyone else. It is rough. I’m glad I’m through it.”
On Friday, April 10, he got a negative test back from Mosaic in Maryville and could finally see his family again.
Meyer announced he had the virus on Twitter on April 5 – when he learned of his positive test – and three days later added another update on his progress.
He still isn’t sure how he got the virus and spent most of the previous two weeks in St. Joseph and returned to Maryville one day to get stuff from his office.
“I was as careful as anyone; I’m a germaphobe,” Meyer said. “I didn’t go to the store without wiping stuff down in my basket. I was shocked I got it. I felt I had been doing things to not get it and not spread it.”
Meyer said he was open about the virus on social media to help encourage people who might get it, but also explain it wasn’t a “terrible, horrible experience,” but it was rough.
“I want people to know if someone might come down with it, the numbers still say you will be fine,” Meyer said. “You see stuff on the news and things are happening for sure, but at the end of the day, most people have symptoms and they get over it. I hope if they saw my story they’d see it wasn’t too big of a deal and it might help them.”
Meyer did his best to stay busy during the quarantine and that included binging seasons of “The Office” – watching almost all nine seasons – as well as ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary films.
He also mixed in some work by watching game film from his second season at the helm of the Bearcats.
Northwest went 12-18 this past season, a four-win improvement from his debut season and seven more than the 2017-18 campaign.
Meyer took over a five-win team in 2018, after spending time on the bench for the men’s program from 2008-2018 in various capacities from a graduate assistant to assistant coach to associate head coach.
Plans for the 2020-21 season are underway even with a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Mike Parson. Meyer said the players got workout bands from Joe Quinlin, Northwest’s strength and condition coach, and workouts to do individually from a group text chain.
“Everyone is in limbo and we don’t know what the next step is,” Meyer said. “We are encouraging kids to stay in shape and those that have hoops to get shots in every day.”
The recruiting portion of the job usually includes a lot of AAU tournaments the next few months but with all of those called off, the recruiting for the 2021 class will be different than most.
Meyer and assistant coach Addae Houston like to watch games in person make a better evaluation of a prospect.
“We put a lot of stock in seeing a kid in person and how they act on a bench,” Meyer said. “What they do when they pick up their third foul in the first half, whose mom or dad is in the stands – things you can learn a lot more about, the intangibles.”
The closed campus also means a temporary halt of recruits visiting Maryville, spending half the day with Meyer and meeting the players. Now, the Bearcats will have to make a few more phone calls and watch a little bit more film on recruits to help shape the next class.
Meyer, who played for Frank Wheeler at Blue Springs, is hoping to bring the success to the women’s program as he saw with the men’s program. An assistant coach under Steve Tappmeyer and Ben McCollum, Meyer was part of 215 wins, six regular season MIAA titles, four MIAA postseason tournament titles and one national championship.
“The fact we continue to improve every year is a big thing,” he said. “When we took over the program they were coming off a five-win season and just graduated the leading scorer and rebounder. It is a slow build and we are improving every year and hopefully we will be even better.
“I think everybody is ready to get back and summer-wise, we are limited. We will be around each other and getting the fall preseason started and trying to get back to normal. It would be good for everybody at this point, who knows when.”