Sophomore David Hurly practices his swing at the Aronimink Golf Club. Hurly chose the fully remote option for this semester. (Courtesy of David Hurly)

Remote student-athletes make the most of living at home

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The cancellation of the fall sports season due to COVID-19 has thrown many athletes’ plans into disarray.

“At one point, I was hoping we would have a season, so (my sport) was taking up a significant amount of my time (these past few months) until that crashed,” said sophomore men’s golfer David Hurly.

Rather than discontinuing all athletic opportunities, Lehigh’s athletic department decided that as long as teams abide by the health and safety guidelines, they will be able to participate in strength, conditioning and other forms of training.

Despite some being able to partake in limited practices and workouts, other athletes have decided to stay remote for the fall semester, meaning that time with their teammates is even more limited than those on campus. 

Hurly is one of several athletes who has opted for the fully remote academic option. However, he has been able to commute from Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb, to play with his teammates and use Lehigh’s athletic facilities. 

While golfers can’t touch flag sticks and need to sanitize more frequently, life on the course has not looked all that different from before the pandemic.

For other athletes opting to stay remote during the fall semester, commuting to practice with teammates is not feasible. 

The uncertainty of a safe return to campus led Sarah Bonthuis, a sophomore midfielder on the women’s field hockey team and a Netherlands native, to opt out of traveling back to America, thus limiting her to only having access to her coaches and teammates digitally.

Teams are providing remote training opportunities for international student-athletes like Bonthuis. She started participating in training sessions via Zoom when teams resumed practices on Sept. 7.

Bonthuis said she has experienced a greater amount of freedom in the Netherlands, where she has resided over the entirety of quarantine. Despite being away from her teammates, her love for the sport has never felt stronger.

“When I’m on the field, the feeling of only thinking of field hockey and nothing else is so good for my mental health,” Bonthuis said. “Field hockey inspires me to push myself to get better and come out of quarantine as such.”

For junior men’s lacrosse midfielder and defender Judah Hicks, opting to stay fully remote in the fall has allowed him to devote time to interests outside of sports.

Over the course of quarantine, Hicks said he made key progress in terms of his personal development while focusing on finding himself and learning how he and other people make an impact on the world.

Hicks opted out of the fall season to continue pursuing personal interests, taking the time to direct his energy toward modeling and creating music. He began laying the groundwork this spring and chose to forgo participation in the fall to finish that process.

However, things have not changed in terms of his passion for the sport since his departure from school last spring.

“I still have the same goals on the field. I know what I need to do to stay in shape and come back better,” Hicks said. “We have a championship to win. My focus is on playing in the tournament and getting a ring.”

While not having fall sports has allowed some student-athletes to devote more time to other activities, sports still proves to be an escape for many, providing a source of comfort for them during these troubling times.

Hurly said once golf courses opened, it felt like his life was back to normal. And despite choosing to remain at home, Hicks said he still has a bond with his teammates. 

“The connection is there,” Hicks said. “We may not be with one another physically, but we are still with one another in spirit.”

 Once quarantine is over, Bonthuis said she will hop on the soonest flight to return to America and hug every one of her teammates.

“How I wish to be (at Lehigh) right now,” Bonthuis said.

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