Samantha Zannotti is a rising senior at Shepherd Hill Regional High School. She writes for the Shepherd Hill Regional High School newspaper, the Hill TelegRam. Zannotti writes here about how the loss of the spring sports season affected different high school athletes and how they have overcome this challenge. 
📸 The Citizen Chronicle file photo

DUDLEY — Student-athletes have been through a rollercoaster of emotions over the past three months. It first started in March when schools were shut down for two weeks and spring sports were postponed until the end of April. 

Then, Governor Baker decided schools would re-open May 4, and the MIAA (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association) decided to have a short spring season lasting from early May until mid-June, so athletes could get a few games in. 

That all came crashing down on April 21 when Baker shut down schools for the remainder of the current school year. With the closure of schools, athletes would no longer be able to have the spring sports season they trained so hard for. 

Kids across the country were suddenly thrown into “remote learning” and had no idea what it entailed. This completely digital way of learning changed the “normal” for students, especially athletes. The random class times and inconsistent amount of homework made finding an everyday routine difficult. 

On top of the school work, athletes were trying to make time to practice, but not with their usual teammates and coaches. They were left alone and all the choices they made were their own. “I think being able to go and put in work every day takes mental toughness because there is no one pushing you to be better,” said Shepherd Hill junior Claudia Bonaventura who is committed to Bryant University for women’s lacrosse. “I have learned that no matter what happens, it is important to keep training and keep a positive attitude because that is the only way to get results.” 

Athletes sometimes need a push in order to get going. They can be unmotivated or distracted by other things that aren’t beneficial to their athletic career or schoolwork. Junior Brooke Garrepy found herself in a similar situation. Garrepy is on the Shepherd Hill softball team and would have been playing in her second season at the varsity level. “I was very unmotivated for a while, but then took it as extra time to practice. I am just looking to improve and become the best player I can be.” 

This unforeseen turn of events has left everyone, especially these student-athletes confused and unprepared. Shepherd Hill junior Henry Weiland, who is a member of the track and cross country teams, found himself thrown for a loop but has managed to adapt to the current situation. “I learned that not everything in life will be perfect or ‘planned’ and that it is important to adjust to uncontrollable circumstances and do the best with what we have,” said Weiland. 

Most athletes had, however, planned how they pictured their spring seasons were going to go. Weiland was hoping to break the school record in the two-mile for track. “I was also looking forward to making it to all-states in track for the first time as an individual,” he said. Weiland has made it to all-states the past two cross country seasons as an individual, as his team did not qualify. All-States is the highest level of competition in Massachusetts for high school athletes. Like Weiland, there were plenty more athletes that had goals like this set for the spring season. 

Bonaventura, and many others, had been training since the fall for the upcoming spring sports season, hoping to achieve their goals. “This season,” said Bonaventura, “I was hoping to reach 300 goals. I was also hoping as a team to make it to districts for the third year in a row.” The Shepherd Hill lacrosse team lost in the district tournament last year to Westfield 12-8. This season was looking hopeful for the team but sadly ended before it started. 

Athletes took the loss of the spring season in many different ways. Some were devastated and lost all motivation, but others used this to grow mentally. Sports all require a certain sense of mental toughness and it’s a hard thing to just sit down and work at. It isn’t something that is easy to change, but when left almost alone with nothing to look forward to, athletes can become mentally tougher whether they know it or not. 

“Unexpected things might happen and you just make the best of them and learn from them,” said Garrepy. “I have learned that things might not always go your way, but you should always make the best of it.” 

One can’t show that they have grown in mental toughness by just sitting there, but it shows up in game situations when needed most. Athletes are put to the test every day when the game is on the line or is in their hands. Those situations are when mental toughness shows itself, seeing if athletes can overcome a situation that is sudden and unexpected. 

That’s what this whole COVID-19 situation had been to students and people across not only the state but the world. Sudden and unexpected things like this can’t be planned. It’s up to how we react to them that matter most. Athletes have put in the extra time and work and are now just hoping to get back on the field in the fall. With no certainty of a fall season, high schoolers not just only in Massachusetts but across the country, just want life to go back to “normal.”

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