How athletes handle a pandemic
Hunter O. Lyle – Sports Editor
Sam Tapper – Sports Writer
While the world comes to a standstill due to the developing COVID-19 pandemic, with Southern being one of many campuses around the United States being closed to the public, athletes and coaches are trying to find a way to endure the sport-less months to come.
Originally, athletics were only suspended until April 13, a decision passed down from the NE10 Council of Presidents. However, as the coronavirus was recognized as more spreadable and potentially dangerous, the NE10 chose to cancel sports for the entire spring season.
“As an update to its previous decision on March 12 to suspend all practice and competitions through April 13, and in keeping with current state and federal public health guidelines,” said a March 17 release on the NE10 website, “the NE10 Conference Council of Presidents has unanimously extended the suspension of all team activities and competitions (in all 24 NE10 sports) on member institution campuses to the end of the 2020 spring semester and all NE10 Spring Championships have been cancelled.”
Lacrosse was one of the first dominos to fall, as they first cancelled their spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. abruptly, and the team’s season, along with all other spring sports, soon after. While there was disappointment felt from all athletes and coaches, lacrosse head coach Kevin Siedlecki thought it was the correct call to make.
“Anyone with a brain who’s reassessing realizes that it’s probably a good idea that we’re not travelling all over the country,” said Siedlecki. “We don’t travel as much as the DI’s, but we would go to New York City twice to play games. I think it’s disappointing, but I would certainly understand and I think our team’s in the same place.”
Along with the cancellations, all spring sports will transition to an off-season training schedule, meaning that teams can only have eight hours of training per week. While this is in place, Siedlecki said he would rather have his players focus on their academics for the time being.
“We’re not that important. Division II women’s lacrosse is not that important right now,” said Siedlecki. “Our strength coach, Coach [Dave] Hashemi, sent out a [workout packet] that was going to be optional. I hadn’t sent it to the girls yet, I just really want to make sure that they are doing well in class. That’s what matters right now.”
Other coaches at Southern, like baseball head coach Tim Shea, share a similar approach to the current situation, stressing health and academics over any set training regiment, as he has left it up to his athletes as to whether or not they will carry out Hashemi’s at-home workout plan.
“[The athletes] are on their own,” said Shea of conditioning and workouts throughout the hiatus. “There’s nothing that we can do. We can’t gather. We can’t meet, so there’s no team training or anything like that. I did not make [the workouts] mandatory for our guys. Basically, just let them know that this is a resource for them while they’re home.”
Despite the absence of structure in the program, Shea said he does not believe it will negatively affect next season.
“I don’t see [the sudden end to the season] having any kind of impact at all. Our season is over, it’s not like we’re going to come right back and then practice for a week and then have to play competition. That’s not happening for us,” said Shea. “When we get back we’ll have fall ball, we’ll work into our winter training and then obviously get to our spring season in 2021.”
With the responsibility of keeping in shape falling on the athletes themselves, javelin thrower Dan Labbadia, a junior on the men’s track and field team, said the transition is not that much different for him.
“Competing in a college sport has been a dream of mine since I was in middle school so I basically have been accumulating a bunch of work out equipment throughout the years,” said Labbadia. “Since I was a sophomore in high school, I’ve put together a pretty good workout facility in my basement, where I have a squat rack, a bench press and a place to deadlift and power clean and stuff like that.”
Utilizing the resources around him, such as his basement gym and his yard, Labbadia has put together a workout routine consisting of a mix of stretching and yoga, lifting, running and throwing, using the javelins provided by the school.
“A lot of success from within the program comes from trust. [Coach John Wallin] tries his best and he does a great job doing what he can, but at the end of the day, he’s not going to be there babysitting me every step of the way,” said Labbadia. “It’s up to me how much I want to get out of it, and that’s especially true now for the summer time, especially because our summer is going to be like five months long without the team. You’ve got to keep yourself accountable the entire way and just push yourself.”