On March 12, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced that all remaining winter and spring sporting events were to be cancelled for the rest of the semester. The unprecedented, abrupt end to athletes’ seasons across the nation forced many to adapt to an unfamiliar situation.
Freshman sprinter Marissa Hsu said that the cancellation affected her mentally and physically.
“Mentally, I was super excited to compete in my first spring season and see if I could reach for any freshman records on the team. Also, the spring track season dynamic is very different from winter since everyone is outside on the track together watching each other practice. Physically, it’s definitely hit me because I can’t practice at my track, so my training stamina has gone down. Training has mostly been adjusted to what I have access to at home and the coaches have been very lenient with everyone’s situations,” Hsu said.
Attempts to continue working out despite a lack of access to proper gyms were widespread. Tennis standout junior Vishnu Joshi is making the most of his situation in other ways as well.
“The transition to coming back home has been interesting to say the least. I've been trying to pull out as many positives as possible. The situation has given me a lot of time to spend with my family, which may not come as often as we would like as we get older,“ Joshi said. “I'm just taking it day by day, trying to remember how important it is that we are taking these measures in the first place. I've also just gotten the chance to finally sit down and reflect on the past couple of years of college and be grateful for the memories I have made up to this point.”
Sports have been such a large part of these athletes’ lives, but they still recognize the importance of these disruptions. For junior pitcher Jonah Offman, the cancellation of sports reflects the need for everyone to stay home and be safe.
“It’s obviously difficult and disappointing to have our season taken away from us and I miss it every day,” Offman said. “But I think it’s also important to be able to put things in perspective. People have lost a lot more than just their athletic seasons because of this pandemic, which is why at this point, we should all be focusing on staying at home and taking the necessary measures to do our part in flattening the curve... Once we’re successful in doing that, we can get back to thinking about baseball.”
As difficult as it is to simulate the intensity of their respective sports at home, these athletes have made out the best they can. This semester’s sports have been cancelled, but these athletes know they will have to be ready to play next year. Joshi found a creative way to keep playing.
“Earlier on, I was able to train with a friend of mine who had also been self-isolating. The situation is obviously evolving rapidly though, so I have just been trying to stay sharp by finding a wall near my house that I can hit balls against on my own,” Joshi said.
Still, the suspension of play provides these athletes with a unique opportunity to improve their play in other ways. With no more games to play, Offman is using this time to step back from baseball and focus on his conditioning.
“I’ve treated these past few weeks as a ‘postseason’ period, taking some time off baseball to recover and get settled back home. Our strength and conditioning coach sent out a great at-home program that I’ve been trying to follow in my living room. The Rec Center has also kept Yoga for Athletes with Nila [Mechali Berger] going twice a week over Zoom, which I can’t recommend enough for an hour of exercise,” Offman said.
Zoom is not only being utilized for the classroom but also as a way for athletes to stay connected with coaches and teammates. Hsu stated that Zoom allows for her to simulate team meetings.
“I'm still in contact with my teammates since I’m good friends with a lot of them. The team has started setting up Zoom calls with the coaches so we can check in as a group with each other and just talk about what’s been happening and about the home workouts,” Hsu said.
The use of Zoom for athletic meetings may be an unexpected use of the platform, but it has been widespread. The situation is no different for Joshi.
“My coaches have still been calling to check up on me and see how I am doing which is great, and our team still talks amongst ourselves a lot,“ he said. “We all hopped on a Zoom call just to pass the time the other day which was refreshing, just to see that everyone was doing okay and still in relatively good spirits.”
Still, Zoom is not a perfect substitute for in-person interaction. Offman expressed his thoughts on the continued virtual contact.
“Our coaches have done a great job keeping in touch with each player individually, making sure we’re adjusting to our new situations. Coach [Bob] Babb emails us at least once a week checking up on us and letting us know how much he misses being with the team,” Offman said. “In terms of teammates, I’m in touch with them every day through all kinds of different group chats and texts. We recognized how close knit we were before all this, and I think we’re all missing being together right now, whether it’s on or off the field.”
Although they are away from the sports they have poured hours into, only to lose their seasons to a once-in-a-century pandemic, these athletes have still been able to stay positive. Hsu is especially grateful for her time spent with the seniors on the track team.
“One big thing that hit me once this happened is that in general, take in as many moments with your seniors as you can. In my winter season, I was starting to get close with some of the seniors on the team, as they were amazing captains and mentors for me. Now that I won’t be able to compete with them for a spring season, it really saddened me. But overall I’m glad I’m still able to connect with my teammates and coaches as I really do miss practicing and going to meets with them,” Hsu said.
Joshi also drew some positives with a shift in perspective.
“Again, this break has given me the perspective that playing tennis is a privilege. A lot of times during the season, things will drive you to questioning whether or not you want to play that day... Now that tennis has been taken away, though, I have realized that I would give so much to see my teammates for a 7 a.m. workout or a practice at 11 p.m. at night at a random tennis club in Baltimore,” Joshi said. “Some things are bigger than tennis, which is life — but I know that whenever I get to play in the future, I will not take those opportunities for granted.”
Sharing this sentiment of gratitude, Offman gave his own take.
“It’s really easy to get overwhelmed by the stressful environment at Hopkins and forget how lucky we are to be in the position we’re in. This situation has shown that you really never know when your last game, class, bus ride, team dinner or even early morning practice are going to be, so you really need to appreciate every single one of them,” Offman said.