After being on pause for about a year due to the pandemic, sports are back in the form of phased activity with athletes training on campus hopeful for the upcoming academic year.

The Ivy League statement announcing the cancellation of the Spring 2021 league-wide athletic competition came as a disappointment to many—although it wasn’t exactly unexpected. It was a continuation of what we saw in the Spring and Fall 2020 semesters, when competition was suspended because we were all booted from campus.

This past semester, however, a number of athletes returned to the Big Apple to participate in phased activity, reuniting with some of their teammates, coaches, and, of course, their beloved training facilities. The mix of returning student-athletes this semester has varied across teams, but one thing is certain—after speaking with a couple of athletes currently on campus, it seems that despite the circumstances, things may be looking up.

Mary Lobon (BC ‘24) of Women’s Basketball was one of two team members training this spring alongside a senior teammate. After spending her first semester of college at home in Spain, Mary, being the people person that she is, was understandably very excited to be on campus for a change. While two is not quite the number of people required for a complete basketball team (you need five), Mary really enjoyed the one-on-one time spent with her coaches, especially given that she’s new to the team. She’s very grateful for the focus and attention she received this semester, which has been instrumental in her adjustment to the “American style of play” and her growth as an individual. While this isn’t exactly what she expected her first year as a student-athlete to be like, she’s making the most of what she has right now and is continuing to build relationships with her teammates virtually and with her coaches through their one-on-one sessions.

Maria Pagane (CC ‘21) of the Softball team has had a slightly different experience. With 11 people on the team back on campus this semester and 10 of those players opting into the phased activity on the field, the softball program has been able to play “actual softball” thanks to the spread-out nature of the sport. According to Maria, the team heads up to Baker Stadium on 218th Street four times per week to do everything from ground balls to live defense to hitting on the field, somewhat bearing a sense of normalcy. Having 11 players who registered for classes not expecting a season resulted in the athletes’ schedules being all over the place, but Maria emphasized that the coaching staff was incredibly accommodating and ensured that all players could participate in training. Because there was no athletic competition this semester, the practice vibe has been very social and low-stress. The phased activity has also been great for getting to know the first-years on the team, all of whom were on campus this semester. The majority of returning players were seniors and first-years, which Maria admitted was a “very different version” of the team than it was last year, but nonetheless, it’s been great getting to know everyone with team morale being very high. While the team has been staying in constant contact with weekly check-ins since last March, there’s a lot of excitement and hope regarding the upcoming fall semester and being completely reunited in-person. Maria also mentioned that current senior athletes may have the option of returning to play with their teams next year if enrolled in a graduate program, so next year’s athletics may be a new experience for spectators and participating athletes alike.

This year may have been wild in just about every way possible, but the success of phased athletics this semester hopefully bodes well for the rest of us in the Columbia community. As we progress into the summer, all of us in the Columbia community are excited to see what’s in store for the upcoming academic year, student-athletes included.

If you’re interested, check out the Columbia Athletics podcast episodes linked below featuring Mary and Maria. And, as always, leave any sports-related content suggestions in the comments section.

Mary Lobon: Inside Columbia Basketball – S3, E7 (Paige Lauder, Mary Lobon)

Maria Pagane: The Roarcast – S4, E2 (Hitting the Diamond with Baseball & Softball)

Editor’s Note: The featured image was taken pre-COVID. Can’t remember what it feels like to be in a crowd like that.

Baker Field via Bwog Archives