Six Hope College winter student-athletes shared their insights into a school year and a season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They talked about how they have tried to display leadership and show gratitude during trying times.

In Part 1, the team captains answered the following question regarding leadership: “How have you helped lead your team this school year amid the pandemic that has required so many changes to the way you do things?” 

In Part 2, the team captains answered the following question regarding gratitude: “What is something positive you have experienced this school year that you might not have during a “traditional” season?”

Preston Granger, Men’s Basketball

Preston Granger

“We as a team have adopted a ‘next play’ mindset, which has been really important with the unpredictability of the year. I’ve done my best to just be there for my guys, whether that be to talk, hang out, or work out together. I’ve focused on building relationships that are more personal than just a bond over basketball.”

Ellie Haan, Women’s Indoor Track and Field

Ellie Haan

“As in many things, the pandemic has made it hard to make connections with our teammates outside of practice. Normally we would eat dinner together in Phelps after practices and have team hangouts, but with safety restrictions, that simply has not been possible. This had made building relationships with teammates, especially those new to the team this year, harder. My fellow captain, Hayley Scollard, and I knew that this would be a difficult year, and so we decided to start a Bible study with the help of one of the Campus Ministries chaplains. We wanted to provide the women with the opportunity to gather safely, but regularly. We wanted to create a space where the girls felt like they could be real about how they were feeling and that they had people that heard them and supported them no matter how they felt. Honestly, these weekly meetings were just as much of an encouragement for me as they were, hopefully, for the other women. I felt like finding ways to connect and support my girls were some of the most important things I could do for them this past semester, and I felt like our weekly Bible study was a good way to do that.”

Lauren Newman, Women’s Basketball

Lauren Newman

“One of the ways in which I’ve led my team during the pandemic is by being a senior and putting on a brave face. It’s very scary for me to think I’d never get to play again, but by putting on a brave face amongst those thoughts, I think reinforces the idea of not looking back and being strong to my teammates. Also staying in touch via Zoom or text, checking in with how they are doing — not just about how their jump shot is. Just making myself available to be there for others, even when as a senior, I’m navigating all this too.”

Noah Russo, Men’s Track and Field

Noah Russo

“In terms of leadership this semester, we’ve all had to change our approaches. In the past, I’ve always preferred to lead by example. Now since we don’t get to meet face-to-face nearly as much, it has been important to remain accessible to younger teammates and update them on what needs to be done on a daily basis.”

Emma Schaefer, Women’s Swimming and Diving

Emma Schaefer

“Something that we have tried really hard to do this year is make sure that we are consistently reaching out to all of our fellow teammates. Whether that be in small groups, or through a text or a quick conversation after practice since we are not able to be together as much as we have been in the past. Another thing is helping to try and motivate people to keep training and to know that the hard work will pay off in the end. We had a couple months shutdown where we were not able to train as a team, and helping people to know and realize the importance of still doing what they could and that the effort they put forth while we are not together will have huge benefits to them and the team later in the season has been really important.”

Bailey Smith, Men’s Swimming and Diving

Bailey Smith

“It has been very different trying to lead the team this year with the restrictions amid the pandemic. Something I, along with the other captains, have tried to do is to come up with some sort of small group events while staying within the rules that we have. Getting together outside of the pool and before the season is so important in my opinion to try and build chemistry and friendships so whether it be ultimate frisbee or euchre, we have tried to have different groups of people be together safely in order to continue to feel more like a team in these tough times.”

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