The outbreak of the coronavirus has seen nearly every aspect of life shift to a remote method — including Lehigh Athletics, as athletes across all sports adapt to their new training regimens at home following the Patriot League announcing the cancellation of the remainder of the spring season.
Bailey Lipset, a freshman on the women’s rowing team, was in California with her team for training when she found out her season was cut short.
“Everyone was so upset — it’s heartbreaking,” Lipset said. “We worked so hard to get here.”
Despite their initial disappointment and confusion at the decision, the players have continued to train from home, albeit with limited equipment and resources.
“Our coach has been really communicative, which I think we all really appreciate,” Lipset said. “To work out for rowing, you usually need a rowing machine, which I doubt a lot of people have in their houses, so our training has involved a lot of running right now to build cardio.”
Lipset said staying motivated is one of her most significant challenges. She said at Lehigh, her busy schedule forced her to manage her time efficiently when balancing academics and sports. Now, with an abundance of free time on her hands, she finds it more difficult to maintain a disciplined routine.
As a result, Lipset said she relies on her teammates to keep her in check.
“Our coach divided us into groups so we can hold each other accountable for working out,” Lipset said. “We have Zoom meetings in our groups to check in on each other and how we’re doing mentally, physically and also academically.”
Unlike Lipset, freshman offensive lineman Brendon Passarelli didn’t experience a shortened season, but he and the rest of the football team are still missing out on valuable training time.
Passarelli said players depend on spring practices for strength and conditioning in preparation for the fall. He said before Lehigh’s decision to go remote, the football team had already started a regimen of 6 a.m. lift sessions, and was about to begin incorporating practices.
Now, as gyms and other public spaces closed across America, the football team has turned to more unconventional approaches to fitness.
“Our strength coach has been doing a really great job of communicating with the team and seeing what everyone has available to them, and he’s coming up with workouts that we can do,” Passarelli said. “We all have our football backpacks, and he’s been saying to fill them up with books (or) water bottles — anything to add weight. You can use your stairs to do workouts. He’s been doing a really great job of incorporating things that everyone should be able to find around their house.”
Despite the creative workout routines and FaceTime calls with friends, Passarelli said it simply isn’t the same as being at Lehigh with his teammates.
“We get really competitive with each other,” Passarelli said. “You can try to keep yourself in shape, but not having the people there to push you makes it difficult.”
Across the board, athletes are struggling to maintain cohesion and a bond not only with their own teammates, but with potential new members as well.
Wrestling coach Pat Santoro said one of his biggest concerns in preparing for next season in light of the shutdown isn’t training, but recruiting. Prospective high school juniors often visit campus during the spring, and the contact between players and coaches is crucial.
“Meeting our team, being with our coaches, seeing the campus, seeing everyday life at Lehigh is important in making their decision,” Santoro said. “Recruiting has taken on a whole different element.”
Like many things during this unprecedented pandemic, Santoro said navigating athletics in the era of the coronavirus is a learning curve that he and his players are adapting to as they go.