With Added Precautions, Training Resumes


Alyssa Blair, Staff Writer

When COVID-19 arrived in the US in March, it put an unexpected end to the spring sports season for all Le Moyne athletes after the NE-10 Conference suspended all official play until December 31, 2020.

“When we were informed last spring that the season would be cancelled, it was very tough,” said head baseball coach Scott Cassidy. “Gathering them in a room to break the news while we were on the road was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a coach. It was particularly difficult on the seniors. They thought that they had played their last game, and some did. It is one thing when you put it all on the line and lose your last game in pursuit of a championship, but when that chance is taken away from you so suddenly, there is a feeling of immense disappointment and heartache.”

Fall athletes were also affected. Though there are rumors for a spring season in store for some fall sports, nothing is definite. “I feel particularly bad for our seniors, but with the risk vs the reward, it’s a no brainer,” said cross country/track and field coach Robin Wheeless.

Teams are now working to move forward as they focus on the task at hand – getting back to work. Most sports are nearly impossible to play while adhering to the recommended six-feet social distancing space, and coaches have had to get creative in order to get their teams back in practice. These creative measures have left athletes missing aspects of their typical seasons.

For a sport like swimming, which is a non-contact sport where athletes are already spread out among different lanes, adjustments have been minor. Practices have been cut to one hour, half their original time, and only 12 swimmers are allowed in a practice at a time. Swimmers are spread out to two a lane and swim on opposite sides of the pool to maintain social distancing. Masks are worn around the facility everywhere, and team rooms are closed for the foreseeable future.

These restrictions leave a void and sense of longing in practice. “I miss being with my team everyday. I miss the locker room conversations, the laughs in between sets, and the feel of a crowded pool. I miss when we would gather 20 people around our coach and the whiteboard to go over a set. It’s not a great situation, but for now we have to deal with it,” said Marcie Christensen, a junior member of the women’s swimming and diving team.

Another team which has seen more minor adjustments is cross country and track and field, which are also sports with minimal contact between athletes and which can be practiced outside. Like swim, although athletes have seen changes in practice, they are minimal.

Cross country/track and field coach Wheeless has divided his athletes into groups based on discipline—sprinters, distance runners, and throwers. Each group practiced on designated days of the week at a designated time and groups are further divided to ensure social distancing, but also efficient training. “We wear our masks and if we are doing high intensity work where it is hard to do it with the mask, we keep a distance of at least 10 feet,” said sophomore women’s track and field thrower Morgan Sartor.

With no solid knowledge of whether or not there will be an official season at any point during the 2020-2021 academic year, athletes have been left with the interesting dilemma of how to find motivation without a consistent source of competition. Athletes are handling it differently from one another.

“I use it as a time to focus on myself because this is the time where you have time to improve and you don’t have to worry about getting injured for competition,” said sophomore women’s track and field athlete Shaina Smith. “I try to practice ‘gratitude attitude’ and know that even though I’m not competing, I am still lucky to be able to run with my teammates and compete against myself,” added fellow sophomore teammate Olivia Snell.

Finding motivation has been easy for senior volleyball player Emily Yancone. “I truly love this sport. I am trying to take every day as it comes and trying to focus on what I can control, which is working hard at practice and making sure that I am in shape,” she said.

Volleyball is a sport usually played in close quarters, so in order to properly social distance, practices have been cut to four people at one time. “This really limits the amount of things that we can do at practice and the drills we can do. All of us are itching to really play a game or at least scrimmage each other during practice,” explained Yancone. Instead, these four-person sessions are bringing the team “back to the basics, whether it is hitting, passing, setting or serving since we have not practiced in such a long time.” The team’s training regiment also includes masked lifts two times a week with trainers to do exercises that will prevent injury.

Despite the challenges in her practice and the abrupt changes to her senior year, Yancone is grateful to be back on the court. “It is definitely not what I had hoped my senior year would look like, but I understand how dangerous this disease is and that we need to have these precautions to keep everyone safe. It definitely took a long time for me to come to grips with this, but now I am really trying to savor all the little things and trying to make this year the best it can possibly be!”

Other contact sports besides volleyball have returned to practices as well, such as baseball and lacrosse. On the baseball field, small group practices are limited to four to five athletes at a time and larger group conditioning requires further distancing. There will be no full-team training this fall. “It is definitely different then what we are used to but it’s nice to be able to get out and enjoy the company of each other and get our work in,” said head Coach Scott Cassidy.

Similarly to baseball, lacrosse is taking advantage of “being an outdoor sport,” according to men’s head coach Daniel Sheehan. While the team cannot practice any contact-skill related work at this time, the athletes are participating in work-outs and staying distant and looking for attention to the details. “We are fortunate to have a large portion of our roster from last year returning for the 2021 season. More than half of our senior class has decided to return for graduate work.  As a program, we feel as though the 2020 season was taken from us, so let’s get to work and see what 2021 brings,” said Coach Daniel Sheehan. “We are looking at finding small successes every day.  Every day that we stay healthy, every day that we can get together as a team (even in small groups), every day we have an opportunity to get better.”

As all teams look ahead into the unknown future and see their seasons hanging in the balance, one thing is clear: health comes first, not just for athletics, but for the whole Le Moyne Community. “First and foremost, we want everyone to stay healthy. Not just our team, but the entire campus community,” said Coach Cassidy.

Coach Wheeless echoed these words: “It’s been a roller coaster of emotions for all the kids on campus, not just the people in athletics,” he said. “For runners, training is therapeutic. It’s a way to work off your frustrations, and it’s often very much like mediation where you just go out and do your activity and clear your mind. I think it’s terrific we’re able to get out and do something for our mental health, and I hope everyone has a stress reliever that relieves their anxiety about what we don’t know that’s going on.”