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?”

Bailey Smith, Men’s Swimming and Diving

Bailey Smith poses for a portrait.
Bailey Smith

“This season has made me so much more grateful and thankful to have the opportunity to even be in the pool at all and to be able to train with everyone. In a normal year, I would definitely take some practices for granted and not want to be there sometimes but after getting the pool taken away from me for so long, I have a completely different mindset.”

Emma Schaefer, Women’s Swimming and Diving

Emma Schaefer poses for a portrait.
Emma Schaefer

“Traditionally, our season is very long and as we head into the winter months, people tend to struggle more with the demands of practice and all the time required. This year, everyone has seen what it is like to not be training together and not be competing which has made our time together as a team that much more special. The uncertainty definitely has made people have a greater appreciation when we are able to compete and be together which has made for some very memorable practices and allowed us to really cherish our time together.”

Noah Russo, Men’s Indoor Track and Field

Noah Russo poses for a portrait.
Noah Russo

“It was fun to get creative on how we get through workouts when the facilities were closed. Basically, anything tangible became a dumbbell early in the fall, and our workouts definitely changed from those of a traditional season.”

Lauren Newman, Women’s Basketball

Lauren Newman poses for a portrait.
Lauren Newman

“Something positive that I have experienced this school year is the unity that has occurred in our program. When this pandemic began, no one knew or could relate to the pain and uncertainty we all felt. So having 17 to 18 women who are going through the same thing, who understand it has been a blessing and has truly brought us closer together is special. I am grateful for the relationships I’ve gained and those I’ve strengthened, thanks to this ‘not so traditional’ year.”

Ellie Haan, Women’s Indoor Track and Field

Ellie Haan poses for a portrait.
Ellie Haan

“I think one of the most positive things I have seen this semester is the drive that many of my teammates have shown to get better even though we had no idea if we would even get to compete when indoor season rolled around. Yet, people still showed up for practice and put in the hard work to get faster and stronger. It can be hard to show up for workouts every day not knowing if we would even get a season, but it was great seeing people show up anyway. I know I am biased, but the people on the track team are really amazing people. It really is one big family. It has been a joy watching older teammates build bonds with new members of the team. Despite the stresses of COVID and all the uncertainty it brings, we were still able to practice and spend time laughing with one another and pushing each other to get better, and that’s a huge blessing.”

Preston Granger, Men’s Basketball

Preston Granger poses for a portrait.
Preston Granger

“I never imagined having this much free time during the season. It’s taught me to value self-discipline and to be intentional with my time. It has shown me what I really value because there is no excuse for not having the time to do things I’ve committed to. This pandemic has also taught us to value every second we get together on the court because we never know when it could be our last.”

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