Colgate Tennis Overcomes COVID-19 Challenges

Chase O'Brien-Steele, Maroon-News Staff

When the spring semester ended abruptly last March, the whole campus was in shock and disbelief. It was an unexpected way to end the semester, and it was especially difficult for sports teams in the middle of their seasons. For sophomore women’s tennis player Emme Levenson, that day in March “was definitely one of the hardest days ever.” Both the men’s and women’s teams had spring break trips planned to New Orleans. When Levenson and her teammates were notified of the seasons’ end, they were devastated.

“Everyone was crying and hugging each other,” Levenson said. “Knowing this was the last time we would be together for a long time.” 

What Levenson and the team didn’t know then is that Colgate would, fortunately, return in-person as scheduled in fall 2020. This year, though, the season certainly looks different.

“There is so much uncertainty. We are all hungry for the spring season, but even that is uncertain at this point,” Levenson said. 

During Colgate’s initial mandatory two-week quarantine period, the team couldn’t practice together. They still made the most of this period, doing team workouts over Zoom. With the start of Gate 1, the women’s tennis squad began in-person practices together three times a week. Now, in Gate 2, the team lifts once a week and has normal practices six days a week. However, not every one of Levenson’s teammates is back on campus; ten are on campus, and three are at home. Levenson said that a few team members had COVID-19 during the hiatus, so the team understands the risks better than most, accounting for the three players who stayed home.  

“It’s really scary, and after some of my teammates having COVID-19, we would never want anyone to have to go through it,” Levenson said.

Levenson said that it’s hard as a team to practice when not all the players are present; nevertheless, she believes the team is making the most of the circumstances, and she is just happy to be back playing her favorite sport. That being said, it was already an extremely tough mental task to be a Division 1 athlete under normal circumstances. With COVID-19, the mental side got even harder for Levenson.

 “One of the biggest challenges is maintaining motivation and positivity during this time. We can’t even high five each other on the court or have a normal team huddle,” Levenson said.

Despite the difficulties, she knows how lucky she and her teammates are to be practicing, speaking very highly of the school and Athletic Department. 

“Nicki Moore, the Athletic Director, has worked so hard so we could all practice this fall,” Levenson said and lauds the entire department’s work this year as phenomenal. “They have kept us in the loop about every decision, and are constantly checking up on us and looking for feedback on how everything is going.” 

As for future competition, Levenson and the team are unsure of what’s in store. The team went 7-2 in the spring before the season was cut short, and they were determined to keep winning. That determination is even greater after such a long wait to get back on campus and practicing again. Because tennis is a spring sport, it’s a long way off until matches will be played. 

“We are hoping to have matches planned for the spring season,” Levenson says, “but right now everything is still uncertain.”

What is certain, she said, is that women’s tennis is doing as much as they can to be ready to compete.

“We are all really supportive of each other,” Levenson said. “And you will still find us on the courts blasting music and screaming!”

At practices, the team has to wear face masks and practice social distancing. However, tennis is a good sport to handle the restrictions of COVID-19, with big courts and only 2-4 players playing at one time, and Levenson is just grateful to be back on the court. Despite the pandemic, the team still has its eyes on the prize.

“The coaching staff has been really supportive and understanding,” Levenson said.

The team is training hard to gear up for the spring season, and after overcoming the obstacles that the virus has presented, Levenson and her teammates have high expectations for the upcoming year.