With the cancellation of fall sports, and the uncertainty concerning the spring season, Amherst athletes remain unsure of when their next in-person competition will be. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, student-athletes still need to train and stay in shape for overall health and injury prevention, as well as to prepare for when seasons start up again.
For on-campus student athletes, the college’s head strength and conditioning coach, Chris Boyko, has put together “Boyko’s Mammoth Outdoor Fitness,” an opportunity for all students to participate in an outdoor fitness class. Three times per week, Boyko leads students through a workout that includes a comprehensive warm-up, a circuit style workout and a cool down period. Kaya Amin ’24, a member of the women’s tennis team, attended a session where athletes did leg and glute work as well as exercises for their upper body. She commented, “He went through many exercises and showed us modifications to make it easier or harder.”
In addition to Boyko’s fitness program, fall sports athletes have been able to practice with coaches present. Because of health and safety restrictions, however, the practices have been limited. Many athletes have attended additional practices in small groups within the team, or exercising by themselves. Volleyball players have to play with their own ball, so they mainly work on individual skills until they are approved to share volleyballs again. Cross country athletes, on the other hand, have been able to fully practice individually or with a pod.
Winter athletes on campus are also working to stay in shape. Christian Moy ’23, a member of the men’s swim team, discussed with me how the team has set up a system where a returning member and a first-year student are paired, and the returning member shows the first year around the weight room.
Yet, many student-athletes have faced challenges of staying motivated to train and keep in shape in a time when they cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel.
For Anna Agathis ’21, a midfielder on women’s field hockey, motivation is one of the most daunting challenges: “I think it’s hard for [the field hockey] girls to stay motivated in the way they used to … since we lost this season, I think a lot of the motivation to be in top shape has gone with it because we don’t have an immediate goal ahead of us.” For current seniors like Anna, whose final fall season for field hockey had been cancelled, the goal of staying in shape seems ever fleeting.
Off-campus, Amherst athletes have become more creative in staying in shape and keeping motivated. “We made smaller groups within the team where we hold each other accountable for working out at home. We’ve also been doing our best to stay on top of the lifts Boyko sends us,” Courtney Resch, ’22 a guard on women’s basketball said.
In addition to the pairing method, Coach Luke Bussard, the defensive coordinator for Amherst football, has created daily workouts for many teams this semester, including field hockey, volleyball and, of course, football. Those workouts cover a combination of both running and weight training. Similarly, Boyko created customized workouts for the lacrosse and swim teams.
For many off-campus athletes, off-campus living together for the semester has created the circumstances for training more naturally. “It’s a lot easier to stay in shape with teammates around to hit and throw with,” said Joe Palmo ’21 an outfielder on the men’s baseball team.
Becky Kendall ’22, who plays on women’s lacrosse, said that the juniors are living together in North Carolina, where they run, do fitness classes, swim and surf together.
In addition to staying in shape, student-athletes have been working overtime to ensure that the sense of community on their teams remains strong, despite being physically separated. As Sophia Fikke ’22, a forward on women’s soccer, said “While it’s of course important that we stay in shape… to achieve our overarching goals of another NESCAC championship as well as a national championship next year, I think it is equally important that we stay connected and build a sense of community. We have continued to facilitate team bonding via team Zooms, team trivia nights [and] a team book club, in which we have focused on reading Black authors.”
Despite all of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and when competitive play will resume, Amherst athletes are resilient and determined to stay in shape this semester so that whenever competitive play does resume, the Mammoths will be ready.