An update on CWRU Athletics: Coming together while being miles apart

Tobili Hatcher, Staff Reporter

The current COVID-19 crisis has stopped us all in our tracks and has changed the way we live our daily lives. For many in the world, this included having to switch from in-person classes to online classes, staying at home in accordance to new sheltering-in-place orders and having to practice social distancing in even the smallest of everyday tasks. However, one of the biggest changes that took place in America came in the form of shutting down all athletics. After a player tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the NBA made the tough call to shutter its doors indefinitely on March 11. If that wasn’t heartbreaking enough, other professional major and minor league associations quickly followed suit, suspending, if not cancelling, their own seasons. The MLB, NHL, MLS, PGA Tour and even the 2020 Summer Olympic Games that were to be held in Tokyo this July have all been put on hold due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

On a similar note, there is another large group of athletes that are also facing difficult changes and new challenges to what should have been an exciting and sports-filled spring season. At first, NCAA President Mark Emmert issued a statement on March 11 that stated, “I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events … with only essential staff and limited family attendance … my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States.” For a moment, it seemed as if not all hope was lost. 

Case Western Reserve University third-year sprinter Jasmine Floyd recalls how the track and field team was gearing up to start their spring portion of their program. She was prepared to send out a text to the team that lifting practices were still going to be held as normal the following day, until they were no longer able to. The team had to end their season before it even had a chance to begin. It had just been announced that the remaining winter and spring championships were canceled, an executive decision made by the NCAA president and the board of governors.

In an open letter to NCAA student-athletes, Emmert announced and reinforced his decision to call off the rest of the academic athletic season by saying: “The decision to cancel all remaining winter and spring championships was made in the best interest of our collective society and community. Such an unprecedented and monumental decision was not made to disregard the student-athlete experience but rather to protect it.” 

So, what happens to student-athletes now that their season has been canceled? Where do they go from here?

When talking with fourth-year tennis player Zach Hennessey, he shared how the men’s tennis team was “fortunate enough to already have 19 matches played before all of this blew up,” recognizing that not all teams were as lucky. The team was 18-1, with their only loss being to the No. 2-ranked team in their division, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The team was considered to be top contenders for the national championship with what they had accomplished so far.

Although not all student-athletes, particularly spring athletes, were lucky enough to start their season as early as men’s DIII tennis was able to, it doesn’t mean that they’ve given up or lost spirits. In fact, for many, they’re using this time to reflect, condition their bodies and prepare themselves for the following season.

Third-year catcher and utility player Tre Armstrong is using his time at home to do just that. In an interview Armstrong participated in as part of CWRU’s “Spartan Check-In,” he mentioned that he has a mini home gym set up in his basement. In an effort to keep limber and in shape, he incorporates free weights, a bench press and a pulldown exercise machine during his home workouts. He’s also been able to watch a few MLB stars who’ve come home from spring training back to his hometown of New Castle, Delaware. All while following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on social distancing, he reassures us. 

During this time apart, many teams are using this as an opportunity to stay connected and bond with each other. Players and their coaches are still keeping each other accountable by having Zoom group workouts, having one-on-ones to check in on each other’s mental health and ensuring that everyone is settling down alright into a new routine.   

For example, the men’s tennis team is participating in the T3 Performance program, which has them completing exercises like 3-mile runs (to be run in under 19 minutes) and group fitness tests over Zoom, to make sure that everyone is keeping up with their training to the best of their ability while at home. In addition, they have workouts given to them by the strength and conditioning coaches that they can complete. In an effort to also make sure that they are mentally strong, the team is also in the midst of a 28-day mental fitness challenge, with many of the team members coming together daily to discuss their feelings and how they’re doing.

Similarly, the track and field team is doing their best to stay connected as well. Between checking in with each other via GroupMe, or completing workouts sent by their coaches, they are also taking this time to work on themselves and improve during this prolonged offseason time. Individually, Floyd is doing her best to stay in shape by using various different free weights and resistance bands in her own home workouts. 

It’s nice to see that even during this time where we all must spend time apart to keep each other safe, CWRU athletes are still able to come together, showing and giving each other support. Our athletes have also given us great ideas on how we at home can also stay in shape while following the CDC’s guidelines on practicing social distancing. If you have a home gym, some spare free weights or some resistance bands, there are tons of online videos that detail how to have an effective home workout. If you want to get a breath of fresh air after spending time online for class, it’s recommended to go on walks or runs alone, making sure to keep a safe 6 feet or more of distance at all times. 

Until we’re all able to meet again on the pitch or on the field, please continue to stay healthy, stay active and keep the fighting spirit of the CWRU Spartans alive!