For the Colgate Women’s Ice Hockey team, the inability to gather in large groups due to COVID-19 has presented a significant challenge in the team’s preparation for their upcoming season.
“The biggest challenge that COVID-19 has presented for the Women’s Ice Hockey team is not being able to be together as a team,” junior forward Eleri Mckay said. “It took nearly a month to skate together and spend time as a team.”
The lack of full team activities both on the ice and in the gym early in the season made it difficult to simulate the competitiveness of a real game. However, as Colgate continues to progress through the Gates of reopening, the team has been able to have more team-oriented practices.
“At the beginning of August, our team was split into different groups in regard to who you lived with. Because of this, our practices were more skill-based,” senior forward and team captain Malia Schneider said. “As we have moved through the gates our practices have become team-oriented including different game situations and scenarios.”
The shift to more team-oriented activities at practice has allowed the team to come up with creative ways to compensate for the lack of games.
“Practices have been relatively the same, high energy and intense. We try to bring a game-like mentality to every practice,” Mckay said. “However, we have had more room to play games and do some new things knowing we’re not preparing for certain teams that we would be playing that upcoming weekend.”
With all of the uncertainties presented by COVID-19, including not knowing when or if the season will start, it can be tough for athletes to stay motivated. However, instead of worrying about factors outside of their control, the team has instead focused on coming to practice ready to compete and being there for each other.
“An easy way for us to stay motivated is to always make the rink a safe space and somewhere people love to go,” said Schnieder. “In the dressing room, it is time to catch up with teammates. On the ice, our coaches make sure that we are being productive but also keeping it light and enjoyable with mini-games or different kinds of competitions.”
Junior defender Tanner Gates echoed similar sentiments to her captain.
“We have created an environment that fosters competition and that competition keeps you going from week to week. We also started scrimmaging against ourselves, allowing us an outlet for the energy we build up in the week of practice leading up to Saturday and gives us an opportunity to compete for an hour and a half at such a high level which is nice.”
Adversity in sports often sheds light on a team’s true identity, and the adverse circumstances presented by COVID-19 have proven no different for the Women’s Ice Hockey team. Through the challenges of the pandemic, the team has learned to lean into their love of the game as well as each other.
“My team has battled through these challenges and found ways to stay connected throughout these tough times and leaned on each other to keep our mental health high,” said Gates.
“The adverse condition of COVID-19 has taught me that our team loves hockey,” Schneider added. “With all of the stresses going on with school, social lives and of course COVID-19, the rink has been created as a place of escape. It is not a place that adds stress or worry, but allows us to be free and pause the stress of life while we are on the ice.”
Looking forward to this upcoming season, the team is coming off a quarterfinal loss to Clarkson in the East Coast Athletic Conference tournament and will look to use that loss and other lessons learned from last season to make a deeper run this year.
“We plan to bounce back by focusing on the year ahead and learning from the mistakes we made in those games that took some points away from us,” Gates said.
“Clarkson will always be a team we look forward to playing each season, but we always keep our minds set on us,” Schnieder added. “No matter who we are playing we play fast, hard and free.
In addition to learning from the mistakes of last year, the team returns almost the same exact roster from last year, having only lost one senior. This continuity and the togetherness the team has displayed during these challenging times should lead to a stronger, more experienced team when the Raiders do return to the ice.