Class of 2020 recruited athletes reflect on their first season

If starting college was not already difficult enough, student athletes Nick Potash ‘20 and Kiara Royer ‘20 have adjusted to their new academic environments along with rigorous training schedules all amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Potash, former captain of the Horace Mann football team, was recruited to Hamilton College, a NCAA Division III school in New York. Potash was able to complete his first season at Hamilton in person because students were on campus from August to Thanksgiving. However, the team did not compete in any games this year, he said.

Even without any games, the football team is a huge commitment, Potash said. In addition to three practices per week, he also had weightlifting sessions four times each week. In order to maintain social distancing guidelines during the practices, the team had to wear masks, and there was no physical contact allowed, he said. 

Potash even faced pandemic-related challenges while getting to know his teammates, he said. “It’s obviously hard because the way the rules are at my school, you can’t hang out with your teammates outside of practice,” he said. 

Regardless, Potash said the football team has made the transition into his freshman year at college significantly easier. Meeting his coaches and teammates helped him feel more connected to his team and the school, he said. 

During her last year at the school, Kiara Royer ’20 was recruited to play NCAA Division III collegiate women’s soccer at Williams College in Massachusetts. In response to the pandemic, Williams College gave students the choice to remain remote or return to campus for the 2020-21 school year, Royer said. In the fall, 80% of the student body returned to campus and created a closed campus, in which students and faculty were not allowed to leave and were tested for the virus twice a week. 

Because of COVID-19, the Williams College women’s soccer team could not have a traditional season. To limit contact with people outside of their campus, Royer said her team did not compete against other schools. However, they still had practice four times a week, which was the same as in previous soccer seasons, she said.

In practice, her team took social distancing precautions to ensure the players’ safety, Royer said. The athletes were not allowed to tackle each other, and always wore masks unless they were more than six feet apart, she said. The practices were also more tactical than physical, Royer said. “We had to spread out much more, and there were more passing than one on one drills.”

Similarly to the practices, the interactions between teammates differed from normal years, Royer said. Only 15 out of 30 team members returned to campus this fall, so Royer has yet to play with many of her teammates. 

Team-bonding events hosted in person were also very restricted, Royer said. Normally, the senior members of the team organize events for team bonding outside of campus, but because students are not allowed to leave campus this year there were limited options, she said. 

However, Royer said her team was able to make the most out of the situation. “Because there were only 15 of us, we did become close through lunches and those sorts of things that we could do on campus,” she said. “Hopefully this spring, restrictions will ease up a little and then more members of the team will return and we will hopefully be able to do some of the activities that we couldn’t in the fall.”

Potash said high school football was one of the best experiences of his life. “We only won one game during my senior year, but I loved every second of it,” he said. Although it was not an extremely high level of football, Potash said high school athletics improved his work ethic.

While Potash loved high school football, it did not prepare him sufficiently to play at the college level, he said. “I will be playing against some of the best players from the Northeast,” he said. 

While Royer’s first season in collegiate sports was not a typical one, her team remained determined to improve, she said. “The intensity of practice never wavered or declined just because we didn’t have a season.” she said. “We all still really wanted to be there, and we wanted to practice as a team to get better so that we are more prepared when we have a season next fall.”