While many upperclassmen football team members are physically disconnected from the first years on campus, the Polar Bears have found ways to stay close-knit through Zoom calls. Training consistently and vigorously and maintaining team spirit, they hope to return, whenever that might be, stronger than before.
For Head Coach B.J. Hammer, this year will be the first time since 1984 that he has not played or coached football. Although it is not the fall season Coach Hammer and the team had hoped for, he emphasizes the importance of continuing to improve in order to prepare for their upcoming season—whenever it may be.
“There’s not a lot of perfect answers,” said Hammer in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “We’re going to control what we can and go full steam ahead for August 21 and prepare like that to reboot this program.”
With this mentality, the first years practice three times each week and complete individual strength-training workouts at Farley Field House. These off-season practices have been crucial for adjusting the first years to the intensity of college football.
“Very few college incoming [first years] are ready and prepared to play college football from day one,” Hammer said. “This is actually such a benefit for those guys … We can really develop them, so it’s only been positive.”
Wide receiver Brady Douglas ’24 is thrilled to put on the pads during practice but stresses how important upperclassmen are in creating a strong, positive team culture.
“Not having any upperclassmen is a huge difference because they’re the guys that are showing us the ropes and showing us how things work,” Douglas said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It’s clichéd, but culture is a big part of football.”
Despite the challenges of a virtual fall season, the football team has worked hard to maintain a close-knit culture. Since March, the team has been meeting weekly as positional groups over Zoom to discuss race on their team, at Bowdoin and in the United States, and to study film. They also use a Snapchat group chat to stay connected.
“The upperclassmen have been there to talk with [the first years], and I think there’s some really good relationships being built and a lot of accountability with each other,” added Hammer.
Senior captain Nick Leahy ’21, highlights the importance of holding one another accountable in order to stay in shape.
“There’s actually a CrossFit gym that’s in Topsham, and so we’ve been going there to do bench, squats, power cleans and all that good stuff,” Leahy said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “We’ve been doing that and keeping each other accountable.”
He and many of the upperclassmen follow workout programs provided by the team’s strength coach and go on runs to maintain their fitness.
However, the recent announcement from President Clayton Rose regarding the College’s spring plans means that first years will not be joining the upperclassmen on campus next semester. In addition, it is unlikely that seniors, such as Lester Jackson ’21, a defensive end, will be able to play out their final senior season.
“I miss everything about football season. I miss seeing my friends every day,” said Jackson in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “Just to have a two hour break in the day to go out there and have some fun.”
Although disappointment is to be expected in missing out on their final season, the senior members are nonetheless confident that they have left behind a team that can build off of their hard work and strive towards future successes.