New faces: Freshman teammates bond despite pandemic

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Freshman year at ’Stoga entails new challenges, perspectives, and opportunities. However, for this year’s freshman athletes, COVID-19 has made this adjustment harder.

By Akshita Joshi, Assistant Sports Editor

 Freshman year at ’Stoga entails new challenges, perspectives, and opportunities. However, for this year’s freshman athletes, COVID-19 has made this adjustment harder.

Team bonding events allow athletes to connect and feel closer as a team allowing opportunities for freshmen to feel more welcomed. While teams have been trying to preserve as many of these activities and traditions as possible, COVID-19 creates limitations preventing several events from occurring. 

Freshman Lukas Metz-Topodas is a newcomer to track and field at ’Stoga, but is not new to running. He has over four years of running experience, including running for his middle school track team along with the Hershey Blaze team outside of school. 

“The upperclassmen have been very welcoming to freshman athletes and have been helpful in getting used to high school sports, but COVID-19 has definitely made it difficult to meet new people and interact with others, and being a freshman makes this even more difficult,” Metz-Topodas said.

For basketball players, team bonding activities such as team dinners and other events have been cut out from the season. Freshman basketball player Isabella Valencia believes the lack of connection between teammates is caused by the removal of these traditions.

“Because of COVID-19 I haven’t really experienced what it is like to be on a team that is so close and has team dinners a lot. The connection between all of the girls has decreased because of the fewer opportunities to do things together,” Valencia said.

Another problem freshman athletes face is the lack of bonding with teammates even in everyday practices and games. Freshman and ice hockey player Eva Stagnaro feels distant from her teammates due to the safety precautions in effect due to COVID-19.

“I feel like it has been hard to get to know my teammates better because there are not too many activities outside of the rink as a team. There is less connection because we are not allowed to hangout or talk in the locker room because of the pandemic, and to me that bonding is a really big part of the ice hockey team,” Stagnaro said.

Despite the situation, upperclassmen in several winter sports teams have been accommodating to freshmen to ensure the process runs smoothly for them. Freshman Jake White, member of the ’Stoga squash team, has played squash for eight years. White first started practicing at Berwyn Squash Club, and previously played for the Valley Forge/TE Middle school squash team. White greatly appreciates the efforts of his upperclassmen teammates.

“The upperclassmen interact with me and the new team members just as much as they would the other team members, it is like small talk in-between practices, they have been very nice to me and all the new teammates so far this year making the transition a little easier,” White said.

Additionally, freshman Arielle LePage, member of the ’Stoga varsity basketball team, shares her gratitude towards upperclassmen while admitting to the difficulty of this adjustment from the middle school to high school team .

“The connection is definitely different than it would be without the pandemic. It’s taken everyone a bit longer to become familiar with each other and I feel like we’re not as close as we would be if it was a normal season; but all the upperclassmen’s outgoing and kind personalities have made this season a little easier,” LePage said.

Regardless of this difficult shift for freshman athletes, many remain optimistic and grateful for what this season has brought so far. Freshman Carys Collin, member of the ’Stoga swim team, acknowledges the triumphs of this season.

“The swim team doesn’t see everyone together anymore, but I have gotten to see most of the people on the team if not every day, most days,” Collin said. “I’m happy that at least we can have this.”

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