This year has been anything but predictable, and with all fall Big East and Patriot League sports cancelled, Georgetown University student-athletes are finding new ways to stay healthy, motivated and connected to their teams. They are also taking this time to explore new interests away from their respective fields.
In March, when Georgetown sent all students home for the year, the Hoya football team got straight to work, meeting daily over Zoom. The goal was simple: rally around plans to return in the fall.
“Our whole mission was: you’ve got to train because we’re going to be here in August,” sophomore offensive lineman Stan Maison said in an interview with The Hoya.
As the summer began and COVID-19 case numbers continued to spike, it looked less and less likely that Georgetown students would be back to play their sports in the fall. Athletic conferences across the country cancelled their seasons one after another, and the Georgetown teams began to anticipate disappointing news.
The Patriot League, in which Georgetown football competes, cancelled its season July 13. On Aug. 12, the Big East followed, postponing all fall sports indefinitely.
“We weren’t incredibly surprised by the time we actually got word,” sophomore defender Anna Shaver of the women’s soccer team said in an interview with The Hoya. “The Big East was one of the later conferences to cancel.”
According to Maison, the decision to cancel fall sports was especially difficult for graduating athletes entering their senior years.
“Every team has seniors, and their senior year is the biggest one since it could be the last time they play the sport for the rest of their lives,” Maison said.
This fall, Georgetown football has kicked back into gear, holding four team Zoom sessions per week, scheduling workouts over a mobile app called TeamBuildr and organizing regular team bonding events.
“We have team meetings on Mondays and Thursdays and positional meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” Maison said. “We [also] try to do a ‘team time’ [every week] where we watch a football game together on Zoom or have Bible study or team chapel.”
According to Shaver, the soccer program has a more limited set of official meetings.
“There are a lot of NCAA restrictions on how much time the coaches can actually talk to us when we’re not on campus,” Shaver said. “We meet up once a week on Wednesday for a Zoom meeting.”
According to Shaver, the team’s seniors have also organized smaller groups to hold each other accountable for staying fit and focused. The groups cut across all four years, bringing the team together and keeping morale high among the players.
“We’ll usually text in those [groups] every day and FaceTime once a week,” Shaver said.
To maintain the team’s collective vision and purpose in the face of all the uncertainty and adversity that comes with the COVID-19 pandemic, coaches have emphasized some important messages.
“They’ve told us to focus on being 1% better everyday,” Maison said. “Be mentally and physically ready, and if they tell us we have to come back tomorrow, be ready to put the football down and go.”
Both football and women’s soccer have also incorporated a sports psychologist into their new routines.
“We have a sports psychologist who has come on call a couple times on how to find an identity when you’re not playing your sport at the current moment,” Shaver said. “She’s [also] talked to us about how to stay motivated and find purpose.”
The psychologist has helped Maison and the football team work toward similar goals.
Though the pandemic has been difficult, it comes with its fair share of opportunities for Georgetown student-athletes. Shaver, a government major in the College, has taken the new schedule as a chance to join Georgetown’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which organizes programming and advocacy for student-athletes. She has also done work with the Voice in Sport Foundation, which empowers women to stay in sports past adolescence and up to the collegiate level.
Maison, a finance major in the McDonough School of Business, has also been keeping busy over the past few months. He has a job as a junior accountant at the Hershey Trust Company, is working on developing a mobile app and has ventured into the e-commerce realm, looking to start an online business with some of his teammates.
The opportunity to be more than an athlete is a big part of what brought Shaver and Maison to the Hilltop in the first place. Shaver loves the university’s combination of academic rigor and a tight-knit athletic community, while Maison sees Georgetown as a place where the opportunities around him will elevate him not only as an athlete, but as a person. He also mentioned a team motto known as “4 for 40,” meaning that players exchange four years on the field for 40 years of personal and professional guidance from friends, coaches and other alumni.
A plan for the spring has yet to materialize, and what will happen on the Hilltop is yet to be determined.
“For Georgetown, we have no idea,” Shaver said. “The NCAA has shifted our championship season to the spring, so now it’s just dependent on whether Georgetown lets us come back to train.”
When the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, Georgetown student-athletes will likely look back on this year as one of growth, even amid the many obstacles that have been thrown their way.
“Not going to lie,” Maison said, “I miss my guys.”
Still, he made it clear that there are lots of things to be positive about.
Caden Koontz is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. Hoya Headlines appears online every other week.