Expectations vs. Reality for First-Year Athletes


First-year student-athletes have experienced an unusual introduction to their Colgate careers, to say the least. Interactions with professors, coaches, teammates and classmates have all been severely restricted due to COVID-19. In order to gain insight into what the experience of the first-year student-athlete has been like this semester, I asked a series of questions to golfer Michael Hanratty (MH), soccer player Simon Hall (SH) and thrower Nick Johnson (NJ).

What were your expectations like when you committed to Colgate and how has COVID-19 changed that?

MH: When I committed to Colgate, I expected to receive a high-level education while playing Division 1 sports. Other than the obvious fact that we are not competing this semester, the experience has generally been what I expected. I take challenging and exciting classes and have a busy practice schedule.

SH: When I committed to Colgate I was expecting the small class environment and close relationships with professors. COVID-19 has changed that drastically. I barely know any of my classmates and my professors are just people that exist over zoom.

NJ: Overall, COVID-19 hasn’t changed my expectations too much. The one thing it changed was meeting all of my teammates. Since we have to practice in small groups, I haven’t gotten a chance to really get to know all of my teammates.

What has been the biggest surprise this semester?

MH: Honestly, the biggest surprise has been our success in keeping campus healthy (fingers crossed). I am proud of the efforts that students and staff have made to ensure that we can remain here.

SH: My biggest surprise this semester has been our ability to stay on campus. I thought we were going home when I heard of kids messing around. The dynamics of Frank have surprisingly had no consequences.

NJ: The biggest surprise this semester has been how strict the COVID-19 rules have been.

What has your experience been like with your teammates and coaches during this semester?

MH: My experience with teammates and coaches this semester has been great! If anything, the lack of competition has given us more time to get to know one another and build a strong team culture. Our coach has been flexible and easy to work with, understanding that these are challenging times.

SH: From an athletic standpoint, developing relationships with older teammates was hard. After Gate 1, the team was no longer divided among freshmen, sophomores, juniors or seniors. Instead, we saw ourselves as Colgate Men’s Soccer. We continue to grow as a team.

NJ: Practicing with my teammates and coach in my small group has felt very normal. Outside of the masks, nothing really feels too different. Since I am a thrower, the ring is already distanced from other people, so it allows us to operate fairly normally.

What has your transition been like balancing your schoolwork and athletic responsibilities while also dealing with the realities of COVID-19?

MH: Although I don’t have anything to compare it to, I almost feel that COVID-19 protocols have made the transition into athletics easier. Because of quarantine, I was able to adjust to the pace and rigor of my classes at Colgate before adding the additional stressor of athletics, as opposed to a normal freshman who would have to jump head-first into both of them.

SH: Balancing schoolwork and athletics has been challenging. In some moments, things seem very lax, then you are hit with a wave of assignments. Right now, the biggest challenge for me is making it a habit to get ahead. It’s also important to highlight the environment that I do work in. Staying in my room while doing work feels like I am still in quarantine. I have to get out and do work somewhere else. Case is my go-to.

NJ: The transition from high school to college hasn’t been too bad. I feel like my long practice hours and difficult school work in high school prepared me really well for the transition into college.