Finding balance as a first-year college athlete during COVID-19


Anica Graney / CLARION

The Redsten Gymnasium where the wolfpack volleyball and basketball teams practice and play.

Kaleia Lawrence, Opinion Editor

Making sports COVID-19 safe took some time, but Madison College did it. While all of the indoor sports seasons were fully cancelled, they were still granted permission to have up to five scrimmages against other teams and practices.
Outdoor fall sports saw their season moved to spring and have been competing. All athletes at the school have been granted another year of eligibility. Even with all of these advantages, the athletic experience was very different from the pre-COVID seasons. 
While there were significant changes for all athletes, the effects of COVID-19 were perhaps felt greatest by first-year college athletes. For example, many first-year college athletes came into their first season after not playing for a year or longer because their high school senior season was cancelled. 
“I was nervous in general with not knowing what to expect coming to college athletics, then throw COVID in there. I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Samantha Plantz, a member of the Wolfpack women’s volleyball team. 
While many athletes were recruited, some still attended open tryouts. One change that was made this year was that tryouts were only open to those who weren’t already recruited. In typical years past, recruited players attended tryouts along with those who only came to open tryouts.  
“I was the only one who attended tryouts because of COVID. Everyone else already had their spot on the team,” said Brianna Hendrickson, a point guard on the Wolfpack women’s basketball team.
The overall message from athletes is how grateful they are for a chance to play. “I’m happy we were still able to get together and practice throughout the year because I was able to form friendships I would have otherwise never made,” said Hendrickson.
Even though there have been many positives, that doesn’t mean that there are no hardships. 
“It’s been tough not really having a season or national tournament to look forward to but it’s been a lot of fun experiencing a new coaching style, growing as a player immensely and meeting some awesome girls that I get to practice with,” said Plantz.
As expected, doing physical activity while wearing a mask isn’t something that athlete’s bodies are used to. While athletes are used to going through extraneous physical training, another layer of difficulty is added when doing so with a mask. 
“Training our lungs to be able to handle breathing through a mask while completely exhausted was probably the biggest challenge,” said Hendrickson.
Even esports, which is currently held completely virtually, requires a lot of training.
“Whether that’s regularly gaming, lifting or cardio, it’s important to put in the effort before it’s needed rather than after,” said Brian Haugh, member of the local esports team. 
Although sports will likely be looking different for a long time, first year athletes have words of encouragement for those considering sports during COVID. Overall, they stress that time is a crucial part of the experience. 
“My advice for freshmen thinking about being a collegiate athlete during COVID is to have good time management, utilizing your resources when you need help and have a big work ethic ready to further improve your athletic ability,” said Hendrickson.
Another important aspect is to enjoy the time that you have with the sport. With the nature of the virus, nothing is guaranteed. 
“My advice would be to not take any practice or rep for advantage…all in all don’t take that time you get in the gym for granted because just like that it could be taken away,” said Plantz.