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Lions are Back and Roaring on Playing Fields

An Emerson softball player practices at Rotch Field wearing a face mask as required by COVID-19 restrictions. (Photo taken by Justin Schmalholz)

After a year off due to COVID-19, some Emerson sports teams are now back on playing fields this spring, and they couldn’t be happier.

“It felt amazing to be able to compete again, especially considering the fact that we lost last season in such a heartbreaking manner due to the pandemic,” said first baseman Ryan McCahan ’21.

Matt Colombini, men’s lacrosse head coach, said it’s been great to be back on the field interacting with players.

“They have been working very hard since our season was shut down last March, and being able to get the full group together in any way has been fantastic,” said Colombini.

Getting back on the field after that extended time off made players and coaches realize what they love and missed about their sports, as well as how excited they are to be back playing.

“You’ll never know how much you’ll miss it until it’s gone, and I really felt that over the summer, not being able to play,” said Neely Eddleston ’21, pitcher and captain of the softball team. “I spent a lot of time over the summer sitting and reflecting about how to be a good captain to my team, and if we got to play what I would do differently or better than years before.”

Jiwon Kim ’21, tri-captain of men’s lacrosse, said all the time off the field made him realize how much he missed competing and the camaraderie with his teammates.

Students won’t be able to make up the year they lost, but are grateful for what they did get back.

An Emerson College softball player runs to first base. (Photo taken by Justin Schmalholz)

“It has been an absolute dream being able to have a senior season this year after COVID. A lot of other athletes did not get this opportunity, so I am very happy to be back on the field,” said Eddleston.

Staying in Shape

Lions did different things to stay in playing shape. Coaching staffs did provide workout regimes to players.  

Eddleston stayed in softball shape by doing some fun online workouts, swimming, and playing volleyball or frisbee with her family.

At the start of the quarantine, McCahan set up a batting tee in his garage to keep working on his swing. He also ran a lot of sprints during the summer and fall to work on his speed.

Distancing in a Dugout

COVID restrictions for sports are similar to our daily lives. All players and coaches are masked before, during, and after practice and games, said Colombini.

“Emerson and the [New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference] have a strict universal masking policy, even during gameplay, which is one of the most stringent in the country. It was an important factor in our season getting approved and definitely contributes to everyone’s safety while playing and on campus,” he added.

Eddleston said practices have a different feel to them during the pandemic.

“We aren’t allowed to gather in a big group because of the COVID guidelines, so it has been a little weird now that we can’t do our pre-practice huddle or any of the team bonding activities that we used to do,” said Eddleston. “Overall, it has been a very different experience, but we are all just very happy to be given the opportunity to play and we are glad that we are able to do so while staying safe.”

Team film sessions and meetings are on Zoom, and players need to spread out on the field during practice instead huddling up together. Colombini said spreading out can be challenging at times because of highway noise near Rotch Field in the South End.

Social distancing restrictions also limit the number of people in the locker rooms, which is often where teams bond before and after games and practices.

“It is a bit odd having to worry about social distancing in the dugout during the game, but I’m happy to do it in order to help ensure everyone stays safe during our games,” said McCahan.

Even with all the precautions, games are still being affected. A March 26 men’s lacrosse game against Wheaton College had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols.

Silver Linings

Eddleston said the time off reignited her love for the game.

“When you’ve been playing for so long, the love for the game can get lost in everything else going on,” said Eddleston. “You’ll never know how much you’ll miss it until it’s gone, and I really felt that over the summer not being able to play.”

Kim said the extended time off gave him a greater appreciation for simple things in lacrosse, like throwing a ball off a wall.

“It got to the point where I would do wall ball every day for about an hour and it would feel similar to meditating. I also learned how to string a [lacrosse stick’s] head!” said Kim.

And when it comes down to it, Lions are just happy to be back out playing the sports they love.

“All in all, these are minor issues that we are happy to work around to be able to play,” said Colombini.

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