Winter sports athletes prepare for season despite uncertainty of future seasons

Men%27s+volleyball+senior+Sam+Willinger+%28right%29+celebrates+after+scoring+a+point+for+the+Lions+in+the+2019-20+season.

Media: Courtesy Sam Willinger

Men’s volleyball senior Sam Willinger (right) celebrates after scoring a point for the Lions in the 2019-20 season.

By José Ríos

The status of the NEWMAC winter sports season remains unclear due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Emerson student athletes have continued preparing for the possibility of competition.

Rather than focusing on on-court training this semester, winter sports teams are prioritizing gym workouts.

“There are a lot of things we can’t do,” first-year men’s basketball guard Trevor Amico said in an interview.  “But we’re trying to get stronger, doing what we’re allowed to do to the best of our abilities.”

Preseason is an integral part of any team’s foundation because it allows athletes to get physically fit and build team chemistry and culture necessary for on-the-court success. However, some athletes said developing bonds with teammates has been the biggest challenge this preseason.

“It’s really hard to get to know everybody during COVID because it’s hard to keep everyone together,” Liv Deslauriers, a freshman guard on the women’s basketball team, said. “Our lift sessions have to be split up between two groups, so we can’t even lift as a full team.”

We stand for community, fact-based journalism. What do you stand for?

Some things in life are essential; they touch us every single day. Good journalism is one of those things. It keeps us in the know as we hurry through our busy lives.

Individual athletes have typically been responsible for improving their physical health independently in past seasons. But this year, it’s become more of a team activity. 

“Since the last couple of years, lifting has been more an independent thing just because a lot of our schedules are all over the place,” senior men’s volleyball middle blocker Sam Willinger said in a Zoom interview. “Now, we’ve really focused on getting at least two days a week where we all see each other lifting because we are such a small group. We’re only seven guys—six of us are actually able to make it to those lifts—so it’s very few of us lifting at the same time and being able to see each other. But it’s been really cool and kind of important for us to have that kind of time to be together.”

The uncertainty of a winter season still remains in the back of these athletes’ minds, but Amico said they are not allowing it to get in the way of their preparation.

“We just have to have that mentality where we’re going to be playing for something, playing for a championship,” Amico said. “Even in the worst case scenario, if this year is hard, you know, there’s always going to be a future.”

The women’s basketball team, like the other teams, holds a winning mentality during these uncertain times.

“We’re just going to keep practicing, keep working, so when we do get games, even if it’s less than normal, we’ll be prepared and ready to win,” Deslauriers said.

The loss or delay of a season would not affect all of winter athletes equally. For senior athletes like Willinger, this is the last season they would be stepping out on the court of the Bobbi Brown and Stephen Plofker Gym as Lions. In his preparation, Willinger acknowledges he is not just preparing for a possible season but that he is helping the team prepare for years ahead.

“I won’t be here next year, but when I’m not here next year, that momentum is still there,” Willinger said. “My team is small and there’s not too many of us. I’m not sure who’s going to end up taking my place as captain and facilitator. Hopefully we’ll foster more of that through the end of this year and hit that goal. We’re really happy with the freshmen that we have and the recruits that we have coming up in the next couple years, so I’m hoping that the program will stay strong and keep rolling with the punches.”