Thriving Together: On and Off the Court

Written: May 7, 2020
Last Updated: May 12, 2020

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Screenshot of a Zoom meeting of the W&J womens volleyball team

WASHINGTON, PA (May 7, 2020) – Coach Lauren London-Law often shares this piece of advice with her volleyball team: you can’t control everything around you, so focus on the “controllables.”

Washington & Jefferson College sophomore Ashley Kovel takes those words to heart during training and matches, but she didn’t expect them to ring so true off the court. She’s part of both the volleyball and the track and field teams, and time with both was cut short when W&J moved its operations online in March to help slow the spread of Coronavirus. So she focused on the things she can control, like her grades and her workouts. But that doesn’t mean any of this is easy.

“Our team is very close and we do a lot of team building, and missing out on all that – it stinks,” Kovel said. “I miss being on campus a lot. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to everyone. It was a really abrupt transition.”

With their teams scattered across the country, adjusting to everything from remote learning to training alone, W&J’s athletics leaders have raised the bar for what it means to be a coach.

“Our goal is to stay in touch and remain connected as much as possible, with an emphasis on face-to-face interaction,” said women’s lacrosse coach Alison Valerio. “It’s important to me, as their coach, to stay involved and encourage my players to find a “new normal” so they can stick to a routine and not get lost sitting at home.”

Across the W&J athletic department, coaches are using all the technology at their disposal, including Zoom, GroupMe, online training and yoga apps, email, text messaging, phone calls, and more to make sure their student-athletes are on track academically while maintaining their mental and physical health. They are holding team meetings and individual chats to maintain a personal connection, creating workout plans and even joining their teams for online workouts.

There’s time for fun, too. London-Law’s team has read a book together, watched films, set up weekly coffee dates, and used Instagram to share fun posts, like their middle school volleyball photos. Wrestling coach Tommy Prairie used Zoom to present team awards from the season. There have been a few rowdy rounds of online trivia game Kahoot among the teams, too.

“I feel like even though we haven’t been on campus, Coach [London-Law] has done a really good job of keeping us together as a team,” Kovel said. “It’s just nice because we all just recognize that we’re not alone. We’re all frustrated and we all miss school, but we all have the same feelings about it. It’s nice to talk to people who are going through the same thing.”

Kovel’s volleyball teammate, sophomore Alexis Tomassini, said adjusting to learning online has been a challenge. W&J’s small campus means students have a lot of face-time with teammates, friends, professors, and coaches, and that’s much harder in an online environment, she said.

“Everything about the world we are living in right now is unusual,” Tomassini said. “These meetings help me not feel alone and even help me forget about the craziness going on…These meetings mean a lot to me because I am becoming more comfortable with my teammates than I have ever imagined. Even though we are not able to build connections on the court physically, we are becoming better teammates to one another and strengthening our mental game.”

This article is part of Thriving Together, a series of articles and videos showcasing the ways in which W&J community members are adapting to new situations and supporting each other during this unprecedented time. Read other articles in the series in the W&J News Section.

 

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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