Max McKenna ‘24 (he/him), Staff Writer

In an era where COVID-19 has made the certain uncertain and the uncertain a certainty, last minute and subjective decisions are constantly made. Such was the case for Davidson’s athletic teams during this year’s winter break. 

In a pandemic-free year, all sports teams would have stayed on campus for some of winter break to hone their craft, but this past winter, things were different. 

Although the men’s basketball team was allowed to remain on campus for the duration of winter break, the men’s soccer team was not granted the opportunity and conducted their training from home.

For some students, home workouts hindered their ability to fully engage with their sport.  However, some welcomed the change. Talking to players and coaches from the basketball and soccer teams provided insights on how athletes are navigating variable circumstances that differ across athletic lines.

A large problem facing sports teams sent home for winter break was potential disconnect between players and their workout regimen, as well as general communication disparities between players and coaches. Yet, the men’s soccer team disagreed with this notion. The overall consensus from men’s soccer made it apparent that this wasn’t the case at all. In fact, the hiatus may have even been somewhat beneficial for the players on several levels, including mental health, physical recuperation and time to spend time with their families. 

In terms of communication, right back Luke Bryant ‘24 said, “The coaches called most everybody a couple times just to check in to see how everybody was doing…we wanted to keep that relationship strong over the break as we were away so they did a really good job at communicating with us.” 

Midfielder Jake Myers ‘22 agreed that the coaches “did a fantastic job” of keeping in touch with the players. 

When asked if he wished the team could have stayed on campus, Bryant said, “I think it could go both ways. For me personally, going off campus and going home helped me a lot. Mentally, just to be able to get off campus and go home and see my family…I was glad for that.” 

Myers offered a similar sentiment. “I, for one, am definitely in favor of [the administration] sending spring sports home for the break,” he said. “It was good to get some downtime following the fall semester.”

To stay at the peak of their game during break, men’s soccer Head Coach Mike Babst mentioned strategies other than traditional practices that allowed the players to improve. 

“For us, I think it was a really good chance to use a lot of video, not just our own but go through a lot of pro clubs to look for parts of their identity that we want to emulate,” he said. “I think trying to be creative with the guys, pulling out things from individual players or games that they can focus on.” 

When asked if he wished his team would have remained on campus during break, Babst offered a simple answer, Especially these days I don’t really think about alternatives, you know, it is what it is.

While men’s soccer was at home, our men’s basketball players were in the gym training. I interviewed Head Coach Bob McKillop about how the team operated during the break. 

Coach McKillop mentioned how although the team was on campus, they still had strict protocols to follow. He said that this actually led to them bonding: “[We bonded] much more so than might ever be the case in past years, because it was the place where we had some degree of freedom.”

He continued by explaining how camaraderie formed from the players spending additional time in the gym with each other: “They stayed around extra and shot more talk with each other and joked with each other and coaches and players, learned more and more about each other, so it was a time in which we were really trying to take a negative and turn it into a positive and which it actually became.” 

Further, Coach McKillop noted that practices were actually more convenient during break due to their consistency without players having classes. 

It’s clear that our athletes were able to create positives no matter what situation they were presented with. In a time where plans seem to change on the fly, adaptability is key. Our student-athletes certainly have that trait and demonstrate it constantly. As Bryant said, “I think break was good for everyone. We came back ready to play.” The continued success of our men’s basketball and soccer teams given their contrasting situations also goes to show the significant skill of the Davidson coaching staff in any number of situations.