Instead of high-energy matches and practicing with upperclassmen teammates in Morrell Gymnasium, first-year volleyball players are met with COVID-19 testing stations. Although teammates might be miles apart, the Bowdoin women’s volleyball team is not letting the distance deter them from staying in shape and maintaining their close-knit team culture.
“We are fortunate to be working with a team that is committed to their physical fitness,” wrote Head Coach Erin Cady in an email to the Orient. “We have developed themes to lead us through each week that prioritize self-care, create an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with fellow teammates and play fun games.”
The Polar Bears, coming off of their 21-8 record in the 2019 season, hope to stay at the top of the NESCAC rankings when they return to play. With no access to the Bowdoin gyms, remote athletics have forced upperclassmen athletes to get creative with their training.
“Because I am off campus, I am not allowed to go to any of the practices,” co-captain Ashley Williams ’21 said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “[I] go on walks, hikes, [I’ve] been playing tennis a little bit so definitely keeping up a normal exercise routine, but I guess different in a way of not really playing volleyball.”
However, not every upperclassman is living off campus. Co-captain Emily King ’21 is currently living on campus and is able to attend the practice sessions that started on September 21.
“I am on campus and living with another senior volleyball teammate, and it’s been nice to have someone else on the team to go on runs with or do yoga or online YouTube videos [with],” King said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “There are five days a week where we can go in and work with the two coaches as well as the five other people that are on campus. We have been able to get in that way, which has been really nice to play volleyball to stay in shape, but also just to have fun and a bit of a sense of normalcy.”
Normalcy is certainly hard to come by this semester, though the team wants to maintain its family-like culture this semester. To do this, players had to be inventive with introducing first-year athletes to the volleyball program.
“I think it’s just different because we don’t see them every day. Normally, in the regular season, we always get team dinners after practice or [are] away with them on the weekends traveling in a hotel. You bond differently with people in that way,” King said. “They have definitely been integrated into my social group, and I try to get meals with them outside and also get to see them in practice and doing some fun stuff over the weekends together. Trying to get a small group together has [become] a bigger thing now just because there isn’t much else to do, so we want to hang out with each other.”
For the upperclassmen living off campus, face-to-face interaction is significantly less frequent. They are not able to welcome first-year athletes to campus like they typically would in any other year. However, they have been able to bond over Zoom sessions that started over the summer.
“Once we knew our incoming class this summer, Emily and I, as captains, immediately got in contact with them and integrated them into our weekly team zooms, and we were doing more things over the summer like team workouts and whatnot and kind of just immediately throwing them in the mix,” Williams said.
Although many believe that the Bowdoin women’s volleyball team might be at a disadvantage compared to other NESCAC teams who are able to train in person with their full squads, the team is not concerned.
“Our team is so competitive based on our previous success that we’re not scared of any challenge,” Williams said. “I just think it’s based on our competitive attitudes, our commitment and dedication to the program as well as fostering a great team culture within our program.”