“My heart goes out to any freshman starting this year,” said Christina Corbi, senior Media and Communications Studies major and forward on the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s women’s soccer team. “I can remember freshman year. It’s a scary thing, and I bet right now it’s so much scarier for them.”
While Corbi and many other upperclassmen student athletes remember the nervousness they felt coming into their freshman season, they all agree that the class of 2024 has it much worse. From social unrest to a global pandemic, this year’s freshman class faces emotions closer to anxiety than simple nerves as they arrive on campus for their first semester of college.
Despite the irregular circumstances, Corbi and other upperclassmen student athletes have their fair share of advice for incoming student athletes on how best to navigate the new college environment.
Corbi says freshmen need to remember that the pandemic is not permanent.
“This isn’t going to be their next four years of college, it’s just one,” Corbi said. “It’s just a hiccup in the road.”
Even if it is just a hiccup, Corbi understands how difficult transitioning to college classes and training is going to be during this time. Corbi believes that freshmen need a support system to help them talk through their feelings and experiences coming into college during a pandemic.
“I know not everyone is close with their parents or siblings, but support systems don’t just mean family,” Corbi said. “Friends come into play. Coaches can be your support system, professors, advisors, even your friends’ parents can be your support system.”
In addition to that support system, junior Media and Communications Studies major and defender on the UMBC men’s soccer team Jordan Ehart said a positive mindset goes a long way toward handling the lows of the pandemic. He said that positivity is what kept him motivated to train throughout the time away from his team as he knew that, eventually, they would have a season.
Many psychologists and the Center for Disease Control have stressed the importance of maintaining a routine and schedule to stay positive during quarantine. Junior goalkeeper on the men’s soccer team Quantrell Jones emphasized these recommendations, particularly during the school year.
While fall student athletes’ schedules are less rigid due to the season’s postponement, Jones said it is still crucial to plan out your day as if you had strict time constraints. Jones likes to keep a planner where he writes specific goals for what assignments to complete and when to complete them.
“If you’re organized, then you can make time for other things,” Jones said. “Some of the guys ask, ‘How do you have so much time? Why are you so free?’ and it’s because I’m willing to get things done.”
Senior Media and Communications Studies major and cross country runner Nathan Trowell Lopez says that your schedule should allocate time to relax in addition to completing coursework. Trowell Lopez believes unproductive moments, like playing video games or watching Netflix, are important because they help prevent mental burnout. He emphasized how crucial it is to leave time to get the recommended eight hours of sleep.
“Sleep is your number one recovery method and I don’t see how anything that facilitates recovery can be considered unproductive,” Trowell Lopez said. “And that means if you have to take naps during the day, I view that as productive.”
Also, to avoid mental burnout, Trowell Lopez explained the importance of identifying yourself beyond your sport. In a time where fall student athletes are going without the usual games and intense practices, Trowell Lopez said having other parts of your identity to lean on is crucial.
“By nature, we’re not meant to be just one thing. We’re meant to be multifaceted,” Trowell Lopez said. “I think just focusing overly on one thing is self-destructive because, eventually, it gets to a point where you start to just associate your whole identity with just that one thing. Then, if that one thing isn’t going so well, you’re all of a sudden not doing so well.”
Senior computer engineering major and cross country runner Taylor Baranoski said that even training less seriously goes a long way to identifying as more than just a student athlete. For Baranoski, remembering why he loves to run and competing virtually with his teammates over Strava, a social media app for runners, reminded him that he was more than just the time it takes him to finish an eight-kilometer race.
Baranoski believes other student athletes should also take this time to have fun training for and playing their sport.
“Think about why they love their sport, think about the process, and enjoying it,” Baranoski said. “Really just focus more on having fun and enjoying it rather than setting high expectations or trying to achieve a specific goal right this second.”
Senior biology major and forward on the women’s soccer team Elysia Paolillo said focusing on what you can control in the present will also help student athletes cope with the uncertainty of future athletic seasons. In addition to focusing on the present, Paolillo said student athletes must be patient.
“I think, as athletes, we see a challenge and we want to get through it as fast as possible,” Paolillo said. “But I don’t think that’s something we can do in this situation. So, [we have to] just stay patient and do the best we can with what we have right now.”