Athletes, coaches consider challenges in spring sports after long hiatus due to COVID-19


Luke Miller

PITCH PERFECT: Daniel Cunningham, varsity baseball player and junior, practices pitching indoors. Cunningham said practices have been more difficult during the pandemic due to more baseball fields and training facilities being closed.

Jillian Moore

School administrators canceled most spring sports last year due to COVID-19. Coaches and athletes have had to adjust to limited practice times and limited access to sports facilities while athletics phase back in. As this year’s spring sports season begins, most athletes said they have practiced independently to ensure they perform well.

Sophie Morgan, softball player and sophomore, said despite COVID-19 closures, athletes must still put in a large time commitment individually in order to improve.  

“I make sure that I stretch every night because I’m not flexible. I go to batting lessons once a week, catching lessons once a week. I make sure to do at least a 30-minute workout every day, so usually when I’m bored in between school,” she said. “I watch a lot of college softball to see what they’re doing and then see if I can try to implement that into what I’m doing.”

Daniel Cunningham, baseball player and junior, said closed facilities made practice more difficult. He said he and his teammates struggled to find available baseball fields.

“When the places are closed, obviously you can’t really get better if you can’t play. So especially if it gets cold outside, you’re only limited to how the weather is outside, which makes it a lot tougher to practice and get better,” he said.

Women’s track coach Aaron McRill said practices have had to change to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. 

“We still have a large number of athletes on the team, but we are able to break them down into much smaller groups within the team. We all just need to be conscious of spacing and social distancing,” McRill said via email.

Morgan said these COVID-19 guidelines have also affected recruitment and caused college coaches to go virtual, which is not ideal in terms of exposure to recruiters. 

“In-person recruiting for (Division 1) isn’t supposed to happen until June or July, I’m pretty sure. They don’t really have camps anymore on campus, and that’s mainly how softball players get recruited, is at camps,” Morgan said. “So it’s been very difficult to put yourself out there and be known by college coaches, especially when they don’t really want to travel far for the showcases. So it’s hard to be seen.”

BATTER UP: Sophie Morgan, softball player and sophomore, prepares to hit a softball during Nationals in July of last year. According to Morgan, COVID-19 safety guidelines have caused many coaches to recruit virtually which is not ideal gauging an athletes performance. (Sophie Morgan (SUBMITTED PHOTO))

Cunningham said since the cancelation of spring sports last year, he has felt pressured to perform well this season, as he now has fewer remaining opportunities for recruitment. 

“(Recruitment has) definitely been a tough thing because colleges couldn’t get out last year, which is obviously one less year that they can see you… so then it puts more pressure on how you do this year versus having more of a two year outlook,” Cunningham said.

However, McRill said he disagreed, and said despite challenges colleges have worked hard to focus on the athletes.

He said, “Most colleges have been pretty good about keeping up with recruits. I thought there would be a disconnect, but I feel like both athletes and recruiters have been a bit more purposeful about the process.”

Morgan said one challenge COVID-19 poses—mainly not having opportunities to bond with teammates—has had a large impact on her softball team.

“You’re not supposed to see your teammates outside of softball. So it’s been really hard to get to know your teammates well over the season. My team is just now starting to get to know everybody,” Morgan said. “So it’s really difficult to come together when you’re not really supposed to be around each other.”

Still, despite these restrictions McRill said most students feel grateful to have a season and comply with COVID-19 restrictions well. 

“We are truly lucky in our school and state to be having sports. We should never lose sight of that. So, social distancing and wearing a mask are small prices to pay to be able to have a season,” McRill said.

Morgan added she will do everything she can to keep spring sports in session and hopes all students at this school work to keep numbers of COVID-19 cases low for this purpose.

“I think I can say this for all of the spring sport athletes. All of us are really trying to make sure that the cases don’t rise. We really would like a season, since the winter sport athletes or fall sport athletes got their season in,” she said. “We really would like a season, so we really want all of the other athletes and everybody else to please keep wearing masks and keep doing COVID guidelines so that we can have a season.”

Cunningham said he agrees, and said he has practiced hard for the opportunity to play in the spring season.

“It’s been unfortunate. It just makes you realize how much you can’t take these things for granted, how you have to capitalize on these opportunities when you get them.”