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The New Normal How COVID-19 is impacting life on and off campus for NCAA members

A typical day at my small New Jersey college is busy, to say the least.

As a student-athlete, my typical day is class, practice and then homework. Then repeat. My teammates and I follow this cycle five to six days a week for most of our four quick years at school.

Like my teammates, I quickly fell in love with college lacrosse because I thrive on structure, teamwork and routine. We love the consistency that lacrosse brings us. We quickly learned that being a part of a program where you are so involved every day gives you purpose, as well as an identity.

One moment that sticks out during this pandemic is how, as a team, we reacted to the cancellation of our season.

I remember looking around the locker room at all my teammates as we were given the news. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. In that moment, the commonly used quote of “play every game like it is your last” became entirely too real.

As a team, we have always prided ourselves in our support for mental health awareness. It has been a topic that hit close to home for many of the girls, including me, since our season ended so abruptly. We realized that being ripped away from something that gives us so much purpose and belonging was going to take a toll on the team mentally.

Over the past month, we have combated the mental stress by relying heavily on Zoom sessions. We have done yoga, alumni panels, Zumba and trivia to help keep everyone connected and continue those relationships we have built as a team.

Our coach, Amy Rizzo, who has been the driving force behind our constant connection, has been calling every single girl on the team for individual meetings weekly to see how we are doing. She has created a calendar of times for all our team Zoom activities, so we all know when we get to see each other. We also have had all sorts of people pop onto our Zoom meetings, from our athletics director to our athletic trainers.

Going into our quarantine life, I knew I would personally struggle, considering I am an anxious person who is not the biggest fan of FaceTime and texting. I had a hard time encouraging myself to reach out and make those connections that I used to make easily face to face. I think, especially for people like me, it has been helpful to have the support of my coach and teammates who push you to reach out. We have learned quickly as a team that we need to be each other’s biggest motivators.

This sank in again recently.

Our conference championship tournament was supposed to finish the first weekend in May. As it came and went, it was hard to find the words to explain the loss I felt — and still feel — for this season.

My sport has dug me out of the darkest of places and has been there for me when I felt like I had no one else. When I step onto the turf, the outside world crumbles away. It is my escape from my own head, which often is swirling with anxiety. Playing this sport is a safe place for my team.

For us, we know we have only four years to play lacrosse at this level, and every game counts. We will never look at a season the same way again. We are ready to come back better than before.

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