In a year of COVID-19 restrictions, student-athletes have found new ways to improve their game during the pandemic

C/O Esra Rakab

In a year where McMaster University sports seasons had to be cancelled and training has become increasingly difficult due to social-distancing restrictions, teams and athletes have had to find new ways to keep improving. Not only are these athletes missing out on the most critical method of improvement — the cancelled games in which they regularly play — but practices have also looked extremely different throughout the school year.

Some teams opted to train via virtual practices, gathering on Zoom to work out together and run drills individually. Others have opted to continue hosting regular in-person practices, simply adhering to the provincial restrictions. That being said, the majority of teams have created a variety of in-between scenarios in their best attempts to keep their athletes on the right track to improvement.

Tyler Pavelic, a middle on the McMaster men’s volleyball team, discussed the differences and difficulties of the in-person practices the team has held this year.

“Training in the pandemic has been pretty tough, especially considering we have to wear masks during the whole practice . . . With the guidelines here in Hamilton, we are only allowed 10 guys at a time, so for a sport like volleyball where you need six-on-six to play, we can’t really do much,” said Pavelic.

“With the guidelines here in Hamilton, we are only allowed 10 guys at a time, so for a sport like volleyball where you need six-on-six to play, we can’t really do much.”

Tyler Pavelic

Practice might be much difficult in the pandemic, but for Pavelic, it’s the missed gameplay that was the biggest punch to the gut.

“[On] gamedays, it’s a great feeling with a lot of fans, loud music . . . It’s just a great experience in every game that everyone looks forward to during the week,” said Pavelic.  When asked what he missed most about pre-pandemic sports, the answer was simple: “Just games, games were awesome,” said Pavelic.

Julian Tymochko, a member of Mac’s men’s baseball team, is another Marauder who spoke about the hardships the pandemic has caused on his team.

“It’s been tough — we haven’t really been able to get any official practices going. The best we could do was have about 10 guys get out, throw a little bit of live batting practice, and get some ground ball work in and all of that. That was during the summer mostly, we really haven’t done much since then,” said Tymochko.

“It’s been tough — we haven’t really been able to get any official practices going. The best we could do was have about 10 guys get out, throw a little bit of live batting practice, and get some ground ball work in and all of that.”

Julian Tymochko

With practices limited, and limitations surrounding indoor practices, Tymochko has found himself improving within the mental/strategy-based aspects of his game from his own home, something many athletes have turned to this past season.

“Something that I’ve been really excited about recently is that college baseball in the states has started up . . . Typically I’ll start my morning watching two or three highlights from the games, like a Vanderbilt-Arkansas game or something like that,” said Tymochko.

Tymochko enjoys watching his American counterparts to analyze how they play the game. He considers each and every move to help improve the way he goes into each game.

“I’m watching those highlights and seeing those pitchers from our age group in North America, how they’re going about their in-game play. Just looking at how they’re playing, considering that they’re the top of the game, they’re the top competition for our age group,” explained Tymochko.

Tymochko, the 2019-2020 Canadian Baseball Guru Cy Young winner, awarded to the league’s best pitcher, has been working extra hard over the offseason, as McMaster Baseball isn’t all he has been training for.

After his Cy Young-winning season, the fifth-year athlete was signed by the Fort McMurray Giants of the Western Canadian Baseball League.

“During the pandemic it was so hard to get a training routine and a good regimen, so I reached out to a trainer via Zoom. For a while I was doing twice a week training sessions with him on Zoom, just getting a good workout,” said Tymochko.

The primary goal Tymochko was going for was finding ways to workout without the typical training equipment offered by McMaster.

“He knew workouts with minimal amounts of equipment that still made me feel a lot stronger, smoother and way more mobile, and I would say that’s what I worked on the most this offseason,” said Tymochko. 

The workload Tymochko has undergone similarly resembles what many McMaster athletes have found themselves striving for during the pandemic. With many struggling to find the resources they would’ve had at McMaster, and the limited and potentially cancelled practices, they’ve had to find ways to keep pushing through.

Whether it’s working with a trainer, finding new training methods at home or doing their best to train with their teams despite the restrictions, these student-athletes have found ways to keep getting better, and they’re undoubtedly looking forward to showcasing these new improvements next season.

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