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  • Writer's pictureWayne Lafley

A Year like No Other - Emma MacDonough

Women’s Basketball Player for Saint Michael's College

Spring break, for two years a week that was just a break between the season and postseason. An opportunity, I could use to rest my body and mind. March 16, 2020, the Monday before the Friday we were all supposed to leave for a week. Something about this Monday and week was different. There was talk of a new virus. This virus was so unknown, that as a student body we were told to be prepared when we go home. As I was packing, all I could think was what was going to happen. So, as I packed to go home, I took everything from the majority of my clothes to every single book I would need to finish the semester. I headed home, into the unknown and to be honest I wasn't prepared for what was to come.

Fast forward to Friday, March 20th, a week after everyone has left school. I was sitting at home and the thought of not going back to school was even crossing my mind. My TV was on low in the living room, all I heard was the “the state of Vermont is going to shut down.” And then, not even a few minutes later, my phone rang. I received an email and then a text from my Coach saying we weren’t returning to school until early April. After reading that text and email, I was shocked. I didn’t know what to think. Even thinking about it now, months later I am still at a loss for words, just like I was that day. Those next two weeks were what seemed to be some of the longest weeks of my life. All I could think about was when were we going to return to school, if we were going to return to school, and what it was going to look like when we returned to school? April 3rd came around and after a few weeks of nothing but, working out and learning this new tool called Zoom. As a student body, we found out that we weren’t returning to Saint Michael’s College for the rest of the year! As I read that email, my heart sank. I didn’t know what to think. Everything and anything crossed my mind. What about school? What about all my stuff in my room? And most importantly What about basketball? Everything was turned upside down.

Zoom class, online schooling, working out in my basement, playing basketball in my driveway and staying at home for weeks on end became my new normal for months. For me this was some of the hardest times in my life. I struggled with my mental health, not knowing the future or what was to come. One way I found an outlet was working out and focusing on my health. I started working out to make sure that I would come back to school in the best shape possible. But, I knew that working out wasn’t going to be enough. I had over six months to make sure that I was going back to school (if we had school) in the best shape. Next, I decided to make health-conscious changes to how I was fueling my body. These two things are what helped me make it through the three months of not leaving my house.

Finally, Vermont reached the point of slowly opening back up. I was able to find a job and get out of the house at least twice a week. Not only was I able to start working, but I was also able to start playing basketball besides just in my drive. I am fortunate and lucky enough to have Wayne who runs a great AAU program and allows me to work out with the teams in the summer. This is something that I didn’t think was going to be able to happen this summer, but I reached out in hopes I could work out with the program that I love. I have changed a lot throughout my basketball career and I have learned to keep myself accountable, but with everything going on in the world, I was finding it hard to get motivated to go out and play the thing I love. Once Wayne texted me saying I was in, I found my motivation again! I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing again. Months and months passed of practicing outside in the hot July and August weather. It was worth every second to be able to play basketball again.

Finally, we hit August. I have now received multiple emails talking about how we will return to school with SO many protocols. I was willing at this point after being home for almost six months to go back to school, to play basketball under whatever rules and regulations I needed to follow.

August 30th, that was the day, move-in day! I was so excited and nervous at the same time. I didn’t know what school was going to look like. I had this picture from years past, but I knew that my Junior year at Saint Michael’s College was going to be completely different than anything I had experienced.

Fast forward to mid-September, basketball starts. But it isn’t like any normal preseason, this one looks a lot different. Masks, own ball, own basket, and in pods. You might be thinking what are pods? The pods were how our team split in half in order to practice. We practiced like that for two weeks before we could even think about practicing full team. Yes, those two weeks seemed to be the longest two weeks of my basketball career. But for me, it was an opportunity to grow as a leader. I was the only upperclassmen in my pod. I was able to lead our freshmen and some of the sophomores and show them what it means to play at the collegiate level.

After those two weeks, we made it to phase three, “yes!” I said phase three. Our head athletic trainer allowed us to skip phase two and head right into phase three. Our basketball team did such a good job listening to the protocols and following the rules that we were able to move right into phase three. Phase three was it, full team practice playing five on five and everything in between. The first week that we were in phase three was getting used to everything again. Like for example having someone being able to play defense on you. This is something that I haven’t had since the last time I played in a basketball game, but it was something that I truly missed. It is nothing like playing against someone else and being able to score or steal the ball. I have always been competitive and yes, I love to go out and shoot but it doesn't bring the same competitiveness like playing against someone else. I got to live in the glory of phase three for two and a half weeks and then it was all stripped away from me and the team.

On campus, there was an outbreak of COVID. We haven’t been practicing for two weeks and we are still waiting to hear about when or if we will be able to begin practicing again.

Covid has really changed the way basketball and even school goes. It is definitely different then anything I have ever experienced before. At times, I have definitely struggled with looking for the positives. But I know that I am not the only one going through this and that no matter what is happening, if there is a season or not, I will have the support of my family, teammates, and coaches to have my back with hard decisions that come my way. Overall, COVID has really changed the times that we are in and the way the sports are being played. It has also given me a different perspective on life and what life is truly about.

I recently received this quote from someone really close to me, and it gave me perspective. Hopefully, you can take something positive away from this quote, just as I did.

decide, you are the only one in charge of your destiny. Unfair things may happen to you, unfortunate times may come to you, but you always get to choose how you respond. You live in frustration and bitterness, or you can be the bigger person and just play the hell out of the cards you are dealt. The truth is that not a single person can choose the cards they receive, but everyone chooses how they play their cards” -- Nikki Bana



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