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Thrown a curve ball, student athletes adjust to new normal

  • W&M student athlete throwing a ball
    Thrown a curve ball:  Under the best of circumstances, the college experience is a constant series of adjustments. The workload is harder, the social life is different, and for athletes the competition is more challenging. But the unprecedented events of March threw a curve ball that no one saw coming.  Photo courtesy Tribe Athletics
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Under the best of circumstances, the college experience is a constant series of adjustments. The workload is harder, the social life is different, and for athletes the competition is more challenging.

But the unprecedented events of March threw a Clayton Kershaw curve ball that no one saw coming. As a result, students across the country are finishing their spring semesters online while adjusting to social distancing. And athletes are finding new ways to stay active.

We checked in with five William & Mary student athletes to see how they are adhering to the university's four principles during this crisis: safety, education, moving forward, and helping stop the spread.

Hollis Mathis
Sport: Football
Year: Freshman
Hometown: Pittsburgh

Adjusting to online classes: "It's a challenge because it's something I've never had to do. I've been doing a good job of making the proper accommodations. The professors have done a good job of being considerate of people not having certain resources.

"It's important because I'm competitive with my grades. That's really my incentive. I just make sure I try to stay on top of my stuff for all types of reasons. To make sure I get that full William & Mary experience."

Staying active despite gyms and fields being closed: "I've been working out with a trainer in the Pittsburgh area."

Making sure to follow safety guidelines and help stop the spread: "Every time I come in and out of house, I wash my hands. I take off any clothes that I was wearing outside and put them in the laundry so I don't have anything from outside on me.

"I'm observing proper health procedures, making sure I'm washing my hands, showering, all types of things. I'm making sure that I'm not putting my unwashed hand in my mouth."

The extra free and family time: "It's like being a kid again. You know, messing with my older brother and seeing what he's doing. Helping clean the house. Sitting in my room playing some video games with some of my teammates. It's been it's been a challenge and an adjustment, but I'm not too mad about just having a lot of free time."

Bailey Eichner
Sport: women's basketball
Year: Junior
Hometown: Cudahy, Wisc.

Adjusting to online classes: "I think a lot of people thought that online school was going to be easier. But for me, it's actually been a little bit harder. Our professors have done a great job only having a week to prepare their courses.

"I think as an athlete, we all kind of like structure. And it's different because we don't have that anymore. Basically, it's our job to stay on top of our schoolwork and workouts now that we're at home."

Staying active despite gyms and fields being closed: "We just had a (Zoom) meeting with our strength and conditioning coach, Coach Ray (Eady). The workouts that we do are body and you can do them within your home. He made it very easy on our end in terms of knowing what to do for the workouts.

"I thought that the body weight, you know, it wouldn't be that hard. It was. It's like the first week of workouts and I already feel it in my legs, and I feel like I've been training with him at William & Mary."

Making sure to follow safety guidelines and help stop the spread: "I'm on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and we all had a Zoom meeting with (director of athletics) Samantha Huge. She checked in just making sure that we're staying safe and that we're staying healthy.

"I miss being around the William & Mary community. But I know that if we just do this right now, we take care of ourselves in terms of staying healthy."

The extra free and family time: "I've just been hanging out with family and enjoying time with them. I take my dogs for a walk at least twice a day. They're probably really tired."

Matt Thomas
Sport: baseball
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Lovettsville, Va.

Adjusting to online classes: "The biggest adjustment has been to find a new routine. My classes are all in the morning, because practice was in the afternoon, so I'm trying to make it as similar as it was. Once I finish (classes), I have the rest of the day to work out and then have the night to relax."

Staying active despite gyms and fields being closed: "Baseball is probably the trickiest because unlike the other (non-spring) sports, our season got canceled. But we have to be ready to go to play summer ball. You can't just take this time off.

"I'm fortunate to have a (batting) cage in my backyard, so my dad will take me out there. My little brother also plays, so it's nice having a household full of people that want to go out there and work and throw."

Making sure to follow safety guidelines and help stop the spread: "The most important part right now is just trying to stay healthy. I'm not really coming in contact with too many people. But definitely, every time you come in the house, you have to wash your hands and make sure everything's clean all the time."

The extra free and family time: "I've used this time to decide on my major. I got into the (Raymond A. Mason) business school, and I'm going to do business analytics.

"I'm trying to get ahead and do as many things as I can so that next semester, and honestly the next two years, are easier for me. This kind of time I'm not going to get again — hopefully."

KJ Cook
Sport: men's track and field
Year: Junior
Hometown: Buena Vista, Va.

Adjusting to online classes: "Personally, I feel like I thrive in the in-class environment. You wake up early, you go to class, you ask the professor questions … But I feel like this was a good week in the transition. I think next week will be a little bit better.

"I only have one or two classes that are more independent work. You know, turn in assignments on the due date. The rest of them, our professors ask us to stick to our regular class schedule … the majority of my classes are like that."

Staying active despite gyms and health clubs being closed: "As long as you can find an open field and a path to concrete, honestly, that's all we need (as throwers). As long as you have the solid ground, you can make it work. … I do my best to stick to my personal routine."

Making sure to follow safety guidelines and help stop the spread: "I've been taking the fish oils, Vitamin C, washing my hands. I practice alone, so that hasn't been an issue. It's not a public facility. I have limited contact with my neighbor, who has a weight room."

The unexpected extra time with family: "I try to use this as a positive takeaway. To see my little brother, I was home for his birthday, which I wasn't last year. I have three brothers — 13, 11, and 5. It's great to have more time with them and watch them grow up a little bit."

Luke Loewe
Sport: men's basketball
Year: Junior
Hometown: Fond du Lac, Wisc.

Adjusting to online classes: "It's been an adjustment for everybody. I had two exams, which weren't too bad."

Staying active despite gyms and health clubs being closed: "The workouts Coach Ray has sent can be done in the house and in the backyard. I don't have a basketball hoop in my driveway and the weather here has been so crappy. But I'm not too worried because I'm not the only one with this problem. Everyone in the country is pretty much having this problem."

Making sure to follow safety guidelines and help stop the spread: "That's been a big thing for our family. My mom works at the hospital in Fond du Lac. She's not involved with people who have the virus directly, but she's in the same building and we have like 15 cases. We're taking precautions.

"Me and my family, if one of us got it, we'd probably be okay. But it's how we could spread it that would be dangerous. It could affect my parents worse than it would me or my sister. I haven't seen any of my grandparents, who live in town."

The unexpected extra time with family: "Let's not take for granted the things we have with our family. We've been eating family dinners every night. I mean, no one has places to be because there's nowhere to go. So it's been nice to step back and realize what we have and enjoy our family a little more."