The transition to college athletics from the high school level can prove to be a challenge to many young athletes in a normal year. This year, an added difficulty is thrown into the mix as the coronavirus pandemic limited or completely prevented many freshman athletes at Marist from being able to compete in their senior season at the high school level.
This means that the freshman athletes joining various sports teams this year are going to be jumping straight from their junior season in high school to now playing at a Division I program. This impact can be felt by athletes in numerous ways.
“I was so ready for my senior season and to finally be at the top level of the team, and go in there and have my senior year,” said freshman midfielder Maddie Schrader of the women’s lacrosse team. “Now [I am] having to suddenly adjust to being at the bottom of the totem pole with a new team.”
These freshman athletes were finally at their peak high school level athletically, yet did not have the opportunity to showcase their talents on the field.
Brian Yetter, a freshman pitcher on the baseball team stated, “We were finally at the advanced point in our game and we weren’t able to face off against other teams.”
This season was also an opportunity for many of these athletes to gain valuable on-field time to enhance their game as much as possible prior to moving on to the college level.
Alyssa Grupp, a freshman on the softball team presented another challenge she faced due to the pandemic and lack of in game competition.
“I was able to do feilding, but hitting-wise it’s difficult because there’s only so much you can do without actual live pitching,” said Grupp. “Not having a summer season as ramped up as usual is definitely tough now coming in and facing high level Division I pitching.”
With all three of these athletes competing in spring sports, there’s also an added decision that had to be made when considering plans for this season. Many senior spring collegiate athletes were granted an extra year of eligibility due to the cancellation of sports last year. Therefore, the freshmen are also competing for playing time with a roster larger than normal.
Regarding the decision to redshirt her freshman year or not, Schrader stated, “I thought maybe, you know, we’re not going to have a season at all. But then we got a practice plan in the first two weeks and we started to get into it. I didn’t think it was necessary.”
“I talked to coach Joe and I said that I just want to do whatever I can do to help better the team at the end of the day,” said Grupp. “Whether it’s coming in for pinch-running or getting an at bat here or there, just however I can pitch in for the team is what I want to do here.”
While all three of the athletes did give some consideration to the idea of redshirting, they all ultimately made the decision to compete this season. They are athletes and express a desire to be out on the field helping their team win games in any capacity.
Even with no official practices and only limited training sessions taking place right now, it is not all downhill for the athletes. Some positives have been found prior to the season.
“Of course right now, it’s never gonna be what it would normally be,” said Schrader. “If I could go out there and play without the mask on and play against other people, then that would be ideal, but honestly I feel like what we are doing now is good because we are kinda going over some of the stuff we wouldn’t have been able to do if we were in full contact. So it’s a great time to ask questions now and be prepared for when we are full contact.”
Clearly, it’s unfortunate that these athletes missed out on their senior seasons, but they were still able to find positive takeaways from the past few months. With very limited game action since the start of the pandemic in the United States, these athletes were able to spend more time focusing on improving aspects of their game they may not have been able to if it were a normal year.
“I felt like I got better because I just had to focus on baseball. It was just a time where I didn’t have to do anything else but focus on the game I love,” said Yetter. “My mindset when I lost my senior season going into the whole quarantine was that I want to come out stronger; I want to come out better and be a better pitcher.”
Yetter was able to make the most of this situation even if it was not ideal. Reinvigorating their love for the game was another aspect that all three of these athletes experienced as a result of having their senior season stripped away.
“I feel like I have just gained a greater love for the game. If anything I feel like this time of not playing, and not being with a team, and losing my final year of highschool, and then coming to Marist has made me realize how much softball means to me and it made me appreciate the game I’ve played for so long.” Grupp said.
While nothing is certain for the spring and there are still a lot of unknowns for how the next couple months will turn out, these athletes are certainly making the most of their situations. It seems that if any other positive takeaway can be realized from how the pandemic has affected these athletes, it’s that Marist is getting a freshman class of athletes who are determined and ready to compete in any way possible to help their teams win when the opportunity finally presents itself and games resume.
Edited by Bridget Reilly & Dave Connelly