East Lyme student athletes continue to train while doing best to adhere to social distancing guidelines
Team huddles and high fives have always been a part of team sports, so adjusting to pandemic precaution has been anything but normal. Fall sports teams use the summer to hit the ground running for upcoming seasons. Unfortunately, safety guidelines force teams to adjust their approach to training and preparation.
“Restrictions keep us from participating in head to head match ups, so it’s harder to find individual weaknesses to improve on. It’s challenging to prepare for a season when we can’t face a real defender,” said varsity field hockey forward, junior Sarah Healy. With a four phase “return to normal” plan originally in place, soccer players also faced a preparation struggle. If the plan went smoothly, teams would start practices in small groups for two weeks, before beginning full team practices in the next phase. After four to six weeks in phase two, limited games would be introduced in phase three before reaching phase four. Unfortunately, the process was not that smooth and teams were stuck in phase one and two longer than expected.
“Corona has prevented us from having many summer games which is a huge part in helping team chemistry. There is only so much you can get from drills and practices, and we are lacking this game play that’s necessary to make a winning team,” said boys varsity soccer captain, senior Sujesh Kurumbail. Members of the girls soccer team expressed similar feelings.
“Teamwork is a huge aspect of winning, and social distancing makes it challenging to work on. It’s hard to get to know your teammates and improve team chemistry when you are all separated,” said girls varsity soccer captain, senior Caitlin O’Dea.
Some of the many rules necessary for teams to practice include the following. Players must enter and exit the field wearing a mask. Players could only arrive to training locations five until the previous team had left. Socializing before and after practice is also discouraged. Finally, players were encouraged to sanitize their hands before and after training. There was some concern regarding these rules, as one slip up or could cost a team their training privileges.
“I had to do a lot of reading as far as seeing what rules the club and state have put down. It was a lot of time spent on the side on my part understanding the expectations of us and then having to implement that into a training environment with 20+ kids,” said pre-season soccer coach Kevin Northcutt.
Despite not being a contact sport, cross country athletes still experienced challenges.
“It’s been tough to not be able to practice as a team. While it seems like an individual sport, you have to be able to rely on your teamtes to push you through a race or tough workout. Not having them by your side makes it a lot less motivating to go out and run,” said cross country captain, senior Fisher Macklin.
Even with these obstacles, ELHS athletes are working harder than ever to prepare for September. On top of scheduled preseason practices, football players gathered at each other’s houses to lift weights, and soccer players met to play small-sided games.
“Obviously, we can’t all get together at one time as a team, but I think we’ve done a good job of looking out for one another to make sure everyone does what they have to so that we are ready when the season starts,” said junior football player Rowan Mundell.
Field hockey players also put in work outside of official practices, and they had an even greater incentive to return at one hundred percent. “We’ve just came off being ECC champs and we are working hard to be successful again. Whether it’s at home or at the turf, we have been making sure we continue to put in work and I believe that’s going to help us go far,” said Healy.
Mundell sums the situation up best, saying, “We’ve got a ‘hungry for wins’ mentality, and everyone is training with a chip on their shoulder. We’ve set high expectations for ourselves and it’ll take more than Corona to hold us back.”