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How Princeton athletes, near and far, are feeling this spring

<h5>Jadwin Gymnasium.</h5>
<h6>Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Jadwin Gymnasium.
Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

For the first time in almost a year, Princeton athletes are allowed to practice on campus — at least, in small groups. We checked in with athletes both on campus and afar to hear how this development is affecting them.  

For athletes who are in Princeton, in-person workouts are allowed in phases. After the campus student body got through Arrival Quarantine protocols, senior forward Jerome Desrosiers told the ‘Prince’ that the basketball team was resuming workouts. Workouts include a combination of lift sessions and practices with a coach. 

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“The first [phase] will just literally be you and a coach shooting at a basket. And then we’re slowly moving in two or three people in a workout, and then if everything goes well, no one gets sick, it can maybe end up being a full practice with the team,” Desrosiers said. 

Even as a senior, Desrosiers talked about the importance of getting the team ready for the next year.  

“Since we’ve missed the whole fall now we have to get ready for next year, so coach wants to start getting after it for next year, you know, maybe win something next year too,” he said.

The men’s volleyball team is undergoing similar practice roll-out phases. Practice for the volleyball team begins in small groups, or pods, of about four to five during the first phase, and depending on campus safety, changes may be made as the semester progresses. Official practices are to take place with only the members of each pod and a coach.  

“They’ve been very strict about no captains’ practices. We just want to make sure we’re being safe and following the rules,” said junior middle blocker Attila Delingat in an interview with the ‘Prince’.

Delingat added that “hypothetically some competition could be on the table, but I don’t think it’s likely, and again it’s really whatever Princeton and the Ivy League lets us do.”

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Both athletes are grateful and eager to follow the University rules.

“For now, it’s all really just about not getting sick and not testing positive. We test twice a week, and we have to follow the rules because if one of us gets sick we all have to start pretty much back in phase one of the workouts,” Desrosiers explained. 

Delingat agreed. 

“We’re just happy to have whatever practice we can for the time being after being off for so long,” he said.  

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Desrosiers and Delingat both expressed that they were thrilled to see their teammates in person after over a semester of Zooms. Last semester, the men’s basketball team had both full team Zoom meetings and smaller group Zoom check-ins every week, where they did everything from playing trivia games to talking about in-game film. The men’s volleyball team took a similar approach.

“We have a team meeting at least once a week, [and] we’ve been alternating what we do each week: reading a book as a team, having different conversations about what’s going on in the world, but also just to have fun, talk to the guys, reconnect, which has been great,” Delingat said, when asked about what the volleyball team was doing during quarantine.

Even though athletes are back on campus, they will probably continue Zooming as a way to connect with the whole team. Delingat said that he sees Zoom as a great way to keep gap year teammates connected, and Desrosiers said it is beneficial for watching film, “since we can’t have the whole team in one room.”

Mostly, though, athletes are excited to just go for socially distanced walks with their teammates. Delingat said he was “really excited to see the first years” whom he hadn’t yet met. Desrosiers expressed similar sentiments.

“We were away for so long, but then when we got back together it felt like we hadn’t missed a minute,” Desrosiers said. 

Desrosiers explained that “a lot of people on the team have just started to walk around with each other ... it’s kind of funny because we never used to do that. We’re always working out, we’re always in the gym, so there wasn’t really a desire to do that [before COVID-19].”

Despite the continued changes to their respective sports, Desrosiers and Delingat each say that they remain positive.

“Personally, I just kind of assumed the worst was going to happen. It doesn’t set you up for disappointment. I expected no one to come back, I expected our season to get canceled, and it happened. It was still sad though when they actually announced it. You just take the news, you move on, you adapt again. Life goes on — it’s alright. I feel like we’ve made the best out of it,” Desrosiers said.

“Everyone is pretty grateful that at least we’re able to practice in whatever fashion we are and just sort of take what we can get, happy to have what we can,” Delingat said.

The experiences of Abby Baskind, a junior on the women’s lightweight rowing team, are much different this semester. Like Desrosiers and Delingat, most of Baskind’s teammates are located on-campus. But unlike them, Baskind is Zooming into school from her home in Memphis, Tenn., over 1,000 miles away from campus. 

“Training always goes so much better when I’m with people. Especially after this amount of time [10 months], you start cutting corners, which makes you more prone to injuries. You don’t necessarily uphold the same structure, and you’re less consistent with physical therapy,” Baskind told the ‘Prince’.

Without going down to the boathouse at 4:20 p.m. every day with her crew, like she would in a usual semester, Baskind faces a lack of the structure, accountability, and support provided by team practices. And while her teammates train for the possibility of competitions in late spring, Baskind follows a separate workout schedule.  

“People on-campus are getting direct coaching from our head coach. I talk to him about once a week to chat about the workouts I am logging for myself in my own spreadsheet. I am training to maintain strength and fitness, whereas those on campus have different goals. The girls on campus have a more structured and refined workout schedule, whereas I have to be accountable for myself. Our head coach sends out daily workouts which are compulsory for those on campus, but recommendations for us living far from campus,” Baskind said.

Baskind is one of three girls on her team who are enrolled and living far from campus this spring semester. Baskind commented that she was “lonely” and “misse[d] her teammates.”

For both athletes on campus this spring and athletes far away, this semester is an unusual one.  

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