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Normally teeming with action this time of the year, IUP’s athletic facilities like Miller Stadium (above), the KCAC (below) and the South Campus fields have been largely lifeless following the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s decision on July 15 to cancel the fall sports season. 

No matter where you are in the world, Covid-19 has challenged everyone. Loved ones lost, memorable events postponed or canceled, and future events left uncertain. Anything in life can be important to anybody, and like any other university, IUP’s community lived for its sports.

This semester at IUP will be very different on campus with most of it being online. Not to mention another huge problem, no sports will be played in the PSAC this semester, as per the conference’s announcement on July 15.

Sports added a lot of life on campus, and the cancelation has certainly had an effect on numerous IUP athletes. The PSAC’s decision in mid-July has given the IUP athletes time to reflect on it, accept it and turn their focus to a potential Spring 2021 season.

To get an inside look, we interviewed multiple athletes and to learn how the pandemic had influenced their day-to-day training and routines.

So how has Covid-19 affected what used to be normal training routines for these athletes?

“At the beginning of all the madness, it was hard to find a place to work out that was not my house,” said Georgiana Chiavacci (Senior, HR Management), a forward on the field hockey team. “Over the last few months, my usual routine was changed from going to the gym to working out outdoors and doing it alone rather than with some friends, which has benefited me and pushed me to hold myself accountable.”

Athletes like Chiavacci have lost their entire season to the pandemic after the PSAC announced the cancelation of the fall sports season.

Furthermore, the PSAC’s decision has canceled all athletic events have been canceled through Dec. 31, meaning winter sports athletes like basketball players Justina Mascaro (Senior, Finance & Economics) and Courtney Alexander (Redshirt Senior, Nursing), are also affected. The IUP basketball teams, along with the swim teams, will lose the first two months of their season and can only hope they’ll play in the spring, even if it is a shortened season.

“Last summer, I had a strict workout schedule while I interned in Pittsburgh. I would wake up early before work and lift three days a week and did cardio and basketball stuff the other days,” said Mascaro. “The coronavirus has given me the whole day to work out, and I found that to be more difficult. It is easier to push things off and say you will do it later.

“I realized I was more motivated when I had a schedule. Every week, I would plan my workouts out, and I found this to be more successful.”

Basic, everyday preparation and training for these athletes quickly became difficult due to the abnormal training situation that was put in front of them. Most athletes would go to a gym with all the necessary equipment to train and work out, but these cunning athletes and coaches had to be creative and think of a solution.

Conditioning isn’t the only obstacle that faced these athletes. How about basic communication? With social distancing guidelines in place, that meant virtual team meeting and the like. No more team dinners, at least for now.

“My team and our coach still try to keep in contact as much as we can,” Chiavacci said. “We typically have Zoom meetings a few times a month as a team, along with talking several times a week in our group chat to catch up with each other. Although it is virtual, we are still able to pick up right where we left off.”

“Coach McConnell and the entire coaching staff organize Zoom meetings every other week for us. Each meeting is different, from playing a Kahoot to hearing from alumni,” Mascaro said. “This helps us stay focused and connected as a team. In addition to these meetings, I keep in contact with my teammates and coaches through phone calls and texts.”

You could say the virtual atmosphere has had an impact on these athletes, but they have made it work.

“A lot of people would fall into the mindset of not working as hard because nothing is set in stone, but I know I would only be cheating myself and my team if I don’t stay focused on working hard for the potential season,” Alexander said. “I think of it this way … working hard builds character and mental strength, so even if a season is shortened or cancelled … my hard work will help me grow in some way.”

“I have been continuing to train as I would if we were having our normal fall season. Although my season may be very different, I still like to keep up with workouts and running as if nothing has changed to better myself and my team,” Chiavacci said.

These athletes are still on a roll with their athletic training even with COVID-19 knocking on the door.

“I have been watching old games and trying to pinpoint the areas I did well in and the ones I need to improve. This allows me to align my workouts with my goals for next season,” Mascaro said.

Even though there have been many negative impacts for IUP athletes, it has also provided some silver linings as well.

“The blessing for me, and most people probably, was the time I could spend with my family and high school friends. I have not been home for this long in four years, so it was an adjustment that also helped me work on patience with my family,” Alexander said.

Chiavacci concurred.

“To me, the silver lining in all of this is that I was able to spend lots of time with my family over the last five months while acquiring new hobbies that I probably wouldn’t have tried if I did not have all that free time, like golf and poker,” she said. “I was also fortunate enough to be home when my first niece was born and spend so much time with her before I head back to school in a week.”

This pandemic has had a massive effect on these athletes both good and bad. Perspective, mental fortitude, perseverance, and communication have proven to be key to these athletes to allow them to stay on track for the hopeful return of sports next semester.

Whenever sports do come back, these athletes will be ready.

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