By James Laverty and Isaac Thompson
Washington and Lee University students will not participate in athletic competitions or artistic performances until at least fall, but student-athletes are staying in shape and keeping teamwork alive while student-performers are finding new ways to express themselves.
“The Athletics department, and in particular, our coaches, have been very busy keeping track of, and touching base with, our student athletes and our PE class students,” said Athletics Director Jan Hathorn. “From Zoom meetings to social media, they are talking with each other to help everyone get through this time and to keep people’s spirits up.”
Student-performers also had seasons cut short. A dance concert was scheduled for April 2-4. The dance company and jazz ensemble were working together for the performance.
“The performance was to be the culmination of both of our classes, and the students had been preparing for it all semester,” said Associate Professor Jenefer Davies, director of the dance program. “Cancelling was a blow to everyone involved.”
In crises such as World War II and the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, sports and the arts provided distractions for people and created a sense of normalcy. But the coronavirus has closed sporting arenas, theaters and clubs where people went to hear music.
Men’s Lacrosse Coach Gene McCabe holds Zoom meetings every day with the team and with individual players. He also uses the video conferencing platform to talk to other coaches and to plot offensive and defensive strategies for when the season resumes.
McCabe said the team is also conducting video chats with high priority recruits because on-campus visits are no longer an option.
Without access to athletic facilities, coaches and athletes have gotten creative with their workouts. Junior swimmer Patrick Sullivan was getting ready to compete in the swimming national championship when the pandemic shut down the university.
“We’ve gotten a few body weight workouts that we could do at home to keep active and in shape,” he said. “I’ve been going on some runs as well to help with cardio.”
Junior wrestler Patrick Hofstedt said the team’s strength and conditioning coach designed workouts that require little or no equipment. The coach also sends out weekly workout challenges for the team members.
“A lot of people have bought into that as a way to stay competitive without real completion,” Hofstedt said.
Head Golf Coach Peter Gyseck said the team also stays connected via Zoom. But most players are improving their games because golf courses near their homes remain open.
Women’s Golf Coach Kelsie Carralero said the time off can be useful for golfers. “The team has taken this time to improve on not only their mechanics, but also their mental game and their strength and conditioning,” she said.
Sophomore women’s tennis player Taylor Garcia said the team has been keeping up regularly through Zoom calls and with a group chat.
Garcia said players have been “running around our respective towns with our family members and dogs” to keep in shape.
Dance professor Davies said she is looking forward to returning in the fall with in-person classes. But she said she has “enjoyed the challenges in finding creative ways to teach using a new medium.”
Davies teaches three classes over Zoom. Two of them are dance technique classes. The classes meet live and dance together on Zoom. They also choreograph together.
She said in one class, students are working in trios to choreograph dances specifically for the camera, treating it as the audience.
Student choreographer Alexis French said she doesn’t feel as active as she would like with the online classes. But she has found her own way to stay moving.
“The nice thing about being a choreographer, though, is that I can always just make my own stuff,” she said. “Tons of professional teachers are doing Instagram Live classes and YouTube tutorials, as well.”
Hathorn, the athletics director, said university administrators and faculty want to resume sports and other activities in the fall. But safety will determine if, when and how that happens.
“We’re a resilient group of people who are used to adjusting to what our opponents throw at us,” she said. “I like to say, We’re down, but we’re not out. This virus has been a super tough opponent, yet we’re determined to come out of this together—stronger and better than when it started.”