Practicing for an Uncertain Season

Varsity lacrosse player Ali Sheehy discusses the difficulty in preparing for a season of unknowns.


University of Chicago Women's Club Lacrosse Facebook Page

By Ali Sheehy

When the University Athletic Association (UAA) made an announcement on January 12, 2021 cancelling all formal spring competition for the 2020–21 season, those on the baseball and women’s lacrosse teams started to wonder: “What does that mean for us?”

The baseball and women’s lacrosse teams do not compete in the UAA. Instead, the baseball team competes in the Midwest Conference (MWC) while the women’s lacrosse team is a member of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW). As a result, the UAA’s announcement did not provide any clarity on the state of their seasons.

As a member of the lacrosse team myself, even though almost a year has passed, I can still remember being called to an urgent team meeting with our athletic director in the middle of March. I can vividly see my coaches, teammates, and myself crying as we realized that our season was over and that we had to say goodbye to our amazing seniors.

This year has presented many challenges for college athletic departments all around the country across all three divisions. The University of Chicago and its athletic department have done and continue to do all that they can to find a way for teams to have the opportunity to practice and compete. Unfortunately, fall and winter varsity teams were unable to play games, but they were allowed to hold practices. However, spring sports teams were hoping that they would not lose another season to the pandemic.

Both the baseball and women’s lacrosse teams were among the first sports to have their seasons taken away from them last year due to the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. For the baseball team, that meant having their season canceled after just six games. For the lacrosse team, that meant only being able to play three of their 16 scheduled games.

So far this year, baseball and lacrosse have been able to start holding practices and team lifts. However, with times continuing to be uncertain, the fate of these teams and their spring competition remains a waiting game.

But while these athletes, such as myself, wait to hear the verdict on whether or not we will have the opportunity to compete, it is still essential that we mentally and physically prepare to do so. Practicing during these uncertain times presents unique challenges. Teams need to be phased into larger groups and longer practice times over the course of several weeks. Additionally, it is difficult to keep up the intensity in practice when you are unsure if you will be able to showcase all of your hard work in a game setting. But even the simple things, such as bonding as a team and getting to know the new members, are tougher than usual. Teams must be flexible and deal with these obstacles while putting in the work.

Overall, it is important to remember that each practice is an opportunity to spend time with the team and improve, both as an individual and as a collective. “It has been so fun to be able to work with the team again more consistently, and it’s bringing a sense of normalcy during these uncertain times. We are looking forward to growing as a team, getting better and [hopefully] being able to compete,” explained Kate Robinson, the head women’s lacrosse coach.

From my experience and through conversations with my teammates, it is clear that we understand the importance of controlling what we have the power to control. We cannot change the course of the pandemic nor can we decide whether or not it is safe enough to compete. All we can do is go to practice, put forth our best effort, and enjoy the time that we have with our coaches and teammates playing the sport that we love. I know that we are all hoping for the best, but in the meantime, all we can do is work hard and wait.