Semester Review: How are athletes coping with their pandemic regimens?

With classes online and varsity sports suspended, student-athletes have mixed feelings about fall semester

The Journal asked student-athletes whether the pandemic given them  a much-needed break from their busy schedules.
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There’s little doubt that being prevented from playing your sport of choice—especially at the varsity level—is a bit of a drag. 
 
With the indefinite suspension of varsity sports in light of the pandemic, student-athletes are facing at least 10 more months of training before they’re able to play competitively again. What’s more, some students who are currently in their final year might have already played their last game and didn’t know it.
 
Evidently, the restrictions that have come along with the COVID-19 outbreak have been a massive hindrance to them and their athletic pursuits. With the semester drawing to an end, The Journal set out to see just how the pandemic has altered athletes’ daily lives and how they’re coping with the changes.
 
Jenna Matsukubo, a second-year on the women’s soccer team, said she finds herself busier now than she was last year.
 
“We’re still playing six times a week, and [weightlifting] twice a week,” she said. “I think part of it is that second year is a bit harder than first year, and also being online makes it harder to manage your time, I’m finding,” she said.
 
Matsukubo mentioned that she’s perfectly happy with how similar the training load is this year, and that the coaching staff’s efforts to keep the team engaged, combined with a lack of competition for playing time, has meant a stronger overall team dynamic.
 
Ironically, the exact opposite has been experienced by fifth-year football vet, Ben Arhen, who finds that this year’s restrictions have created a weaker connection among teammates.
 
“There are rookies on the team this year that I’ve never seen before, that I’ve never spoken to before. If everything was normal, we’d be going to Ban Righ every day together, and we’d be hanging out […] The dynamic is very disconnected,” he said.
 
Arhen also mentioned that team workouts are a fraction of what they used to be. During a normal football season, the total time spent training would amount to about 41 hours a week, which isn’t including time spent studying playbooks and watching film. Now, the total amount of time he and his teammates spend working out together is six hours per week, if that.
 
On whether managing schoolwork has been much of an issue, Arhen said that having a packed schedule in previous years often helped him and other players more than it hurt them.
 
“A lot of the guys [on the team] do better during the football season. When you’re an athlete, you have a sense of urgency and balance in your life where you know that you need to get things done, otherwise you’re screwed.”
 
This sentiment was adamantly shared by second year women’s rugby player Ally Rupar, who said her rookie season’s packed schedule helped her stay on top of her work.
 
“I found it extremely manageable. I’ve even noticed, some of my other [teammates] who struggled with last year’s scheduling are saying that they’re not doing any better this year.”
 
“Honestly, having fewer scheduled things this year hasn’t actually helped for productivity or getting things done at all,” she said.
 
On the subject of training, Rupar said it’s still a very consistent part of her schedule. Although field practices have decreased, Rupar said she’s been able to get in the gym twice as much as usual. 
 
Echoing a similar sentiment to Matsukubo, Rupar said the women’s rugby team has also grown closer due to a lack of competition surrounding playing time, and teammates have also taken it upon themselves to create a better support structure for struggling teammates. 
 
One noticeable problem, however, is a lack of motivation that’s beginning to show in practices. Speaking about one in particular which occurred recently, Rupar said it suddenly hit everyone that they won’t be playing a single game for close to a year, and their effort was reflecting that.
 
“We all just kind of lost it. We realized that we’re not going to be playing a game for months on end,” she said. “You don’t always think that, but sometimes when it hits in practice, it’s really hard.”
 
Finally, The Journal spoke to fourth-year Matt Flood about his experience as a cross country and track athlete this fall. Flood was quick to state that his training regimen hasn’t changed all that much, despite the restrictions.
 
“It’s pretty much the same, I would say. The only thing that’s different is the build-up to every workout, or every run, because we can’t utilize the ARC anymore,” he said.
 
One change Flood did mention was the closure of the RMC indoor track, which the cross country team uses as a facility multiple times a week during the winter semester. 
 
Although he feels the training schedule is as manageable as it has ever been, Flood believes the restrictions that have been imposed on the team—specifically running alone more often—has been a slight detriment to his level of enjoyment and motivation toward training.
 
“It kind of gets you motivated when you have someone to run with every day, whereas if you’re running on your own, it can get a little monotonous and boring,” he said.
 
On the whole, Flood feels that the fall hasn’t done any wonders for his training or productivity, but he was optimistic in stating that the restrictions might have opened some new doors for people who thrive on looser schedules.
 
“For some people [these restrictions] could also be a positive. It could open up a lot more time for them to run, and there are a lot of people who are okay with running by themselves all of the time. But for me, personally, it’s a bit of a detriment.”

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