Cameron Krakowiak ‘24 (he/him), Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Dani Gariglio

The pandemic has dampened nearly all aspects of the Davidson athletic experience. Seasons have been cancelled and competitions are on hold; however, other key elements of an athlete’s experience are on hold too — namely, team chemistry and bonding. As some teams prepare for seasons this spring, coaches, and players have been tasked with finding ways to come together safely.  

This semester started slowly for all sports teams. Practice and camaraderie were limited,  as both North Carolina and the Davidson administration were cautious about athletic teams coming together safely in larger groups. Practices were also limited this summer and early fall, but as the semester progressed, teams were able to come together, online and in person, as the school’s cases of COVID-19 went down. 

“As the restrictions on campus and by the governor were reduced […] we were able to have team meals […] a group of five, six, seven people, basically have dinner on campus or bring some food onto campus, just to have the social interaction,” said Women’s Soccer Head Coach Adam Denton. “The feedback we got from our players is that training is great but the environment on campus, they’d be on class on Zoom […] our kids were Zoomed out, everything is Zoom […] so we took them outside, whether it is a coffee shop or Ben and Jerry’s to get them social interaction,” he affirmed.

For first-year Track and Cross Country runner Frances Whitworth ‘24, team bonding came slowly. “I feel like I have stronger relationships with upperclassmen on our team now than when we first got here, especially when it was just the freshman on campus,” she said. “The upperclassmen on our team have offered us a lot of opportunities to run together.” 

Both Men’s and Women’s Track and Field came together to have a pacing challenge, which was a good way for the teams to get to know each other. Junior runner Alex Ackerman ‘22 spoke excitedly about the pacing challenge. “We all wore our masks,” he said. “We set to run a pace and had a bunch of teams, and the winner had the closest time to their predicted time, and that was a fun activity we did when we were on campus”

The Men’s track team has been bonding online through their unique forum “‘Cats Cue,” where one person on the team sends out a media source — whether an article, podcast, or book — that interests them. Ackerman sent out a book he read called Unfu*k Yourself that he believed was “relevant for racing and for college” as well as for “being mentally ready for practice.”  

 When asked about whether ‘Cats Cue was helpful for the team, Ackerman said, “Definitely, we’ve had an increase as a society, as a school and as a team talking about mentally going through things. With running it is especially relevant […] knowing you are going to go through a lot of pain is super relevant with running and talking about it […] that open conversation is really helpful.” 

For Women’s Cross Country & Track and Field Coach Jen Straub, getting together as a group this semester has been all about keeping a light atmosphere. “Trying to get my job done but trying to keep the health and wellbeing of the team is well balanced and that they look forward to being together, rather than the COVID ramifications,” she said. “If anything, COVID has made us more aware of our Wildcat family and to take care of each other more. In some ways, we are closer than we have ever been!”