By Oliver Collins
College athletic careers have always been very fragile and pressurized, with the risk of injuries and keeping up with school work. But the pressure to stay in shape during the Covid-19 outbreak is almost too much to stand for some athletes. So how have athletes learned to deal with training and maintaining their ability to compete while the pandemic keeps them in place? Athletes from Saint Mary’s College of California give us their insight and experiences on how hard it is to adapt athletically during these difficult times.
It's crazy to think that just 8 months ago everything was normal, in person classes were in session as planned, school sports were in full swing and that week night football session or night out was still a common routine. Of course when the deadly outbreak of Covid-19 broke loose everything changed, but what people fail to realize is that athletes take a large brunt of that force as well. March Madness, college baseball and men’s volleyball season are all opportunities for rising college athletes to show their potential, not to mention fall sports like softball, cross country and golf.
However the truth is many athletes have not grown accustomed to training under COVID law, Jocelyn ‘Jojo’ Bryant a softball player for the Saint Mary’s freshman team says, “we haven’t completely started yet, but I’m sure it will be a challenge to train with COVID lurking over our shoulders.” Softball is a sport that requires multiple players to practice, obviously without wearing gloves when throwing the ball there is no way to protect players from the possibility of contracting COVID. This could force players to simply weight train and exercise privately until the season is underway and the team enters their own bubble.
Many college athletes have managed to stay motivated through the outbreak, they continue to find ways to master their craft by training constantly. But how long until athletes lose that first month motivation, how long until they begin to lose hope that their season will finally come.
Cross country is not a sport that requires multiple runners to practice for, but training (as you can probably understand) is no walk in the park. Luke Bland, a member of the Saint Mary's cross country team runs an average of 10 miles per day, and the smoke coming from the Northern California fires doesn’t make it any easier, “Without races it’s hard to stay motivated so you have to create personal goals for yourself in training. Also knowing your running for a great program has definitely helped me stay motivated”, Bland emphasizes. Now, the cross country team has it much better than most sports because they can run with each other without being within close proximity.
Obviously team bonding is a very important part of a sport, as an article by the blog, sports management team at Arbiter Sports states, “Bonding exercises encourage goal-setting, communication, problem solving and stress management skills that will be vital on and off the field. In addition, team members who often work together can trust one another – and trust can help win games (or events).” The outbreak makes it nearly impossible to get close with teammates and coaches, a large part of success in sports is team bonding or team building and not being able to do either definitely hurts the chemistry of a team.
So what are some ways that sports can keep in touch during this time of uncertainty? Diego Huerta (2024), another member of the cross country team says, “We find ways to stay connected, whether it be through zoom calls or during runs we find ways to keep that needed chemistry intact.”
Having been an athlete in the past myself, it’s difficult to describe how hard it is to motivate yourself to train and improve. Dylan De Prosperis, 2024, a Saint Mary’s golf player vocalizes, “It can be difficult to stay motivated but my secret is to set goals for myself and work toward them.” Setting goals and making schedules is a great way for athletes to stay conditioned throughout the outbreak. Adapting to that collegiate sport lifestyle is no easy feat, and being in shape is a must for any college player. Any injury could mean the loss of a scholarship. In my junior year of high school just a week after receiving an email about a possible scholarship I shattered my wrist, throwing would never be the same and baseball became distant. Athletes face dozens of different pressures every week and Covid-19 only adds to them, adapting to this scary way of life is the most difficult part of it all. A puzzle that all athletes have to solve.
During this outbreak many athletes have been forced to stay home and not continue their dreams of being a Division 1 athlete. Here at Saint Mary’s many students are being allowed on campus which means many athletes are allowed to train on campus with teammates (socially distanced of course). Athletes have been practicing relentlessly throughout the spring and summer, whether it be for baseball, basketball or any other sport. But what happens if COVID doesn’t go away? Do we need to prepare for a permanent pandemic?