Two students and two employees at the Middlebury Language Schools tested positive for Covid-19 near the end of the college’s seven-week summer program, prompting tighter restrictions for those staying on campus. Both students remained in self-isolation on campus, the college announced on Aug. 13, while positive employee cases recovered off campus. Rumors began to circulate around Thursday, Aug. 12, just two days before many students planned to leave campus. Students in different language programs received conflicting information about the source and location of the outbreak, while some were led to believe that canceled classes were a result of scheduling conflicts, according to Sydney Armor ’24, who attended the German Language School over the summer. “I did have a friend in [another language school] who was texting me and said, ‘All of my classes got canceled, but they didn’t tell us why,’” Armor said. “They just said it was due to ‘scheduling conflicts.’ And then I explained to her what I had heard, and then she didn’t hear the truth from her school until about two days later.” Ben Beese ’21.5, also a member of the German school this summer, said the program’s administration communicated some information about Covid-19 exposure and event cancellations on Thursday afternoon. “Most information we were working with were [essentially] rumors,” Beese said in an email to The Campus. “We heard bits and pieces of info from admins as we ran into them outside but nothing concrete. It sounded like the students might have been from the Spanish program. Maybe they were unvaccinated.” Until August 13, when the college updated face covering requirements and visitor policies via email, vaccinated students were not required to wear masks in any setting. According to Beese, masks and Covid-19 guidelines were loosely enforced, especially after arrival testing yielded zero positive results. All students were required to be vaccinated before or during the summer session, and vaccinated students were not tested during the summer. Meanwhile, student research assistants and lab workers relied on their peers for any information they could gather. Hira Zeeshan ’22, who studied in a neuroscience lab on campus this summer, said she heard about the two active Covid-19 cases from a group of peers. “I first learned about the Covid outbreak amongst language school students from my fellow RAs,” Zeeshan said. “The school didn’t inform us until a few days later when they started implementing Covid restrictions in the dining halls and in buildings.” Zeeshan said that many language school students and research assistants did not mix over the summer, instead forming their own factions within the school. She expressed disappointment with some language schools students’ failure to respect Covid-19 protocols. She also suggested that the guidelines for social gatherings among research assistants seemed to be undefined. “One thing, however, that we were unclear about was that [sic] whether research assistants could have small gatherings, because they were common for language school students,” Zeeshan said. “There was a strong divide between the language school students and the research assistants… RAs were quite disappointed with language school students because we were respectful of the Covid guidelines but had to adjust to this change after a summer of not wearing face coverings.” Before the outbreak, students experienced a “near-normal” summer session, thanks to a high vaccination rate among students in the language programs and lower rates of infection near Middlebury. “We were going in town, having parties, masks were just about nowhere to be seen. It was great, and I think everyone felt pretty safe,” Beese said. “We weren’t being tested regularly — after all, we all thought the vaccines were going to prevent infection until Delta took off this summer.” In the final weeks of the session, the college offered testing to students who needed to show a negative PCR test for international flights, but did not provide universal testing for vaccinated students. Some language schools directors instead encouraged their students to receive testing at a site in town, but there were few available appointments before groups were scheduled to depart on Aug. 13 and 14. As the college commences what seems to be a more “normal” fall semester thus far — with in-person classes, traditional dining hall operations and sports competitions — student concerns about Covid-19 cases and the spread of the Delta variant linger. “It was amazing to be back to normal,” Beese said. “Hearing that there were [Covid] cases on campus then and that we should be masking and distancing, etc, made it feel like we’d been too optimistic… So realizing that there was a chink in our utopia was a big wakeup call, and I think we were unsure of what that meant for us personally, for the fall and for the pandemic in general.”
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Student athletes are stepping up to the plate this election season, taking the initiative to engage and educate the community about the value of voter participation. The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is using its platform to encourage fellow athletes to prioritize democratic engagement at Middlebury and beyond. Thanks to the efforts of student athletes and other student organizations, the college holds this year’s number one ranking in the NESCAC and number 11 slot in the country for the total number of public commitments to vote. SAAC paired up with MiddVotes and MiDD (Middlebury Does Democracy) this September to launch a campus-wide campaign to involve all student athletes in the election process. Izzy Hartnett ’21, a senior leader of the SAAC and member of the women’s soccer team, is leading the initiative, calling on varsity sports teams to promise to vote on Nov. 3. Hartnett and her team reached out to all varsity captains to create a coalition of MiDD student-athlete liaisons who can provide resources for their teams and communicate with MiddVotes. “[We] ask all our MiDD liaisons to reach out individually to each member of their team to ask if they are registered to vote if [they’re] eligible, what their plan for voting is and if they have any questions along the way,” Hartnett said. Women’s tennis captain Ann-Martin Skelly ’21 said she volunteered for the MiDD liaison position because of her disappointment with the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and her understanding of the importance of voter participation. Skelly hopes to help all student athletes find their voice this election season and increase voter turnout among college students. “I wanted to have an impact on this year’s election,” Skelly said. “Regardless of political beliefs, everyone deserves to be heard. The last election was determined by about half of the population, and I wanted to be a part of ensuring that everyone at Middlebury has the resources to participate this year.” Part of Skelly’s job as a liaison involves recruiting her 11-person tennis team to partake in the MiDD Team Challenge, a student-led campaign designed to guide Panther teams through the election process this fall. The MiDD Team Challenge encourages students across campus to obtain voting achievements — represented by bronze, silver, gold or platinum awards — by signing pledges, spreading awareness and registering to vote. The bronze award is allotted to team members who have filled out the Midd Plan and the All In To Vote Pledge and registered to vote; each successive medal combines bronze-level achievements with additional goals, including assisting 10 other students with voter registration and attending one democratic engagement event, like MiddVotes’ Vote Early Party on McCullough lawn on Oct. 23. “The MiDD Team Challenge sets goals for engagement and recognizes team achievements as we strive to reach every Middlebury student,” Hartnett said. “We hope more athletic teams will shoot for the silver and gold medals in the MiDD Team Challenge because it will influence more of the Middlebury community to get involved in their democratic engagement.” So far, the SAAC has garnered full participation from 20 out of the 29 varsity teams. Hartnett and the SAAC recognize that there is still work to be done and hope to encourage the team with the lowest voter registration rate (66%) to match the percentage of other athletic teams. The challenges inhibiting 100% student athlete cooperation, Skelly suggests, might be related to Covid-19 precautions on campus that limit the number of in-person activities and education sources available. “Honestly, it has been harder than I thought,” Skelly said. “Because of being more spread out due to Covid-19, we haven’t been as organized, and making videos [to spread information] has been challenging.” Still, Skelly’s team has formed a collective plan for voting: applying for absentee ballots and signing the All In To Vote Pledge, an online form asking college students to make a public commitment to vote. While Middlebury student athletes are certainly off to a strong start, their work remains unfinished. With the Nov. 3 date fast approaching, Hartnett provided guidance for how students can continue to shape the political atmosphere through voter participation and democratic engagement on campus. “MiddVotes has created an incredible website that is extremely easy to navigate and find relevant voting information,” Hartnett said. She encouraged athletes to keep up the great work in the final days before the election.
Fall 2020 once looked promising for Middlebury athletics. The football team sought to extend its reign as NESCAC Champions, field hockey had eyes on its fourth -consecutive NCAA title and several other sports teams anticipated a competitive season of play with their Division III peers. However, when the NESCAC presidents announced the cancellation of fall sports competition in early July, teams across campus began to brainstorm ways to make the autumn months as productive as possible. Now that fall sports practices have officially commenced, coaches and athletes are adjusting to the new safety precautions on campus. For Bob Ritter, head coach of the football team, that means adopting an innovative approach to practicing this fall, focusing more on individual technique, stretching, speed and agility. He plans to shorten the amount of time the team spends on the playing field, splitting his squad into smaller pods. “The way we’re beginning is going to look very different,” Ritter said. “We won’t have any helmets or equipment to start, and everything we do is just going to be like the other regulations. We’ll be six feet apart and we’ll have masks on the whole time.” Other fall varsity sports like soccer, field hockey and volleyball will follow similar measures to avoid physical contact on and off the field. Although practices and workouts for more individualized sports like cross country will essentially look the same, athletes will lack the support that comes with running alongside a cluster of teammates. Ritter said he worries that these modifications will hinder the ability of first-year athletes to acclimate to the team culture. Although small group practices and the loss of a locker room space means limited face-to-face interaction, Ritter thinks the team’s virtual conversations this summer helped athletes bond in a way he hadn’t seen before. “We had some pretty serious conversations about things that were going on in the country at the time,” Ritter said. “I think in some ways [we] might have gotten to know the first-years better over the summer than we traditionally do.” Women’s volleyball, which will practice on outdoor grass courts until the start of Phase Two in mid-September, held similar dialogues over Zoom this summer. The team welcomed four first-years this fall, assigning each new athlete a “big sister” to help them adjust to life on campus. “Each of our first years is assigned a big sister in the spring,” head coach Sarah Raunecker said. “So they’ve been cultivating those relationships over the summer, and I think that has helped the freshmen feel welcome even before getting on campus, too.” While first-year athletes now seem to be successfully immersed in campus life, Middlebury coaches are concerned about how to attract prospective students to their athletic programs amid a pandemic. Because the majority of recruiting takes place in person — scouting athletes on the sidelines, hosting fall recruiting weekends and coordinating visits to campus — it will be challenging for coaches to evaluate potential players. “My recruiting will be quite different moving forward, depending on who’s able to play and get video footage out,” Raunecker said. “In some parts of the country people are playing, so I’m getting some new footage, but traveling to see kids play and work[ing] with them at camps will drastically change the recruiting landscape for this next class.” Prospective students may need to choose a school without ever visiting campus or meeting the team, according to Nicole Wilkerson, head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country teams. Instead, they’ll have to rely on virtual materials provided by college coaches — online tours, panels and Zoom chats — to determine whether a school is compatible with their academic and athletic interests. “[The pandemic] has actually advanced the timeline because prospective student athletes can’t visit most campuses so they potentially have all of the information they can get by now,” Wilkerson explained. “They will likely have to make a decision without visiting any campus.” For now, Ritter, Raunecker and Wilkerson are taking the fall “four days at a time,” as the football coach joked, using this season as an outlet to relieve stress and develop important skills. Luckily, it’s part of the job for both athletes and coaches to embrace challenges like these with open arms. “We’re committed to making this experience a rewarding and fun one in these unusual and challenging times,” Raunecker said. “I think sport always teaches resilience and perseverance, teamwork and goal setting, and this year will be no different in that regard.”
In the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism, universities across the country are confronting their own issues of racism and exclusivity. Varsity and club sports teams at Middlebury have begun to examine privilege and exclusion present within their own groups, and some are taking direct action to foster an environment welcoming to all members. Varsity teams reexamine recruiting practices An open letter penned by Middlebury athletes across sports and addressed to the athletics department petitions coaches and faculty to shift practices to better serve underrepresented communities, widen geographic areas of recruitment and deprioritize recruiting trips. The letter asks that the athletics department move recruiting efforts online to better reach individuals who cannot afford to fund their own recruiting trips, and to shift away from prioritizing face-to-face recruitment interactions, which disenfranchise certain potential athletic recruits. “Quite simply, we are calling for the demographics of Middlebury student-athletes to better represent those of our country and world,” the letter reads. The Middlebury track and field team is taking the matter into its own hands, developing a new student-led recruiting strategy. “Student-athletes will recruit high school track and field [and] cross country athletes from racially and socioeconomically diverse high schools located in the Middlebury student’s hometown,” said track athletes Greta Sirek ’22, Grace Kirkpatrick ’22, and Kate Holly ’21. The swimming and diving team at Middlebury is exploring a similar strategy. Swimmer Courtney Gantt ’22 is among those who want to make Middlebury’s swim and dive team more diverse and inclusive. “This could include expanding opportunities for virtual recruiting trips if people cannot afford to come to campus or bringing Middlebury admissions representatives to more [places] where there are high POC populations that may not know about Middlebury otherwise,” Gantt said. The swimming and diving team is predominantly White — in fact, there were no Black athletes on the 2019–2020 roster. In addition to addressing recruitment tactics, the team is also working on educating themselves about race and swimming. This meant organizing conversations concerning race and diversity in the sport with Director of Equity and Inclusion Renee Wells. Gantt emphasized the importance of engaging in these difficult conversations as a team in order to make a difference both in and out of the pool. “Our team is making a commitment to educate ourselves about the history of race and swimming and the different access that Black people have had to higher education, jobs, healthcare and all spheres of life,” Gantt said. The swim and dive team also plans to provide more swim lessons to low income families in the area to expand access to swimming. The women’s soccer team also reflected on their presence on campus as a majority White team by hosting team meetings with faculty to discuss anti-racism. “We hope to make efforts to diversify our team and are looking into tangible ways we can do that throughout the summer and when we get back to campus,” Ellie Bavier ’22 said. Club sports take on addressing Whiteness and exclusion Although club sports teams often offer messages of inclusion in their recruiting and mission statements, many face similar issues of exclusion and discrimination. Alyssa Brown ’20 is a member of the Middlebury ultimate frisbee team. In Brown’s memory, there have been few to no Black players on the men’s and women’s frisbee teams. Brown attributes much of this lack of diversity to frisbee’s origins as a countercultural sport that has historically been played in majority White and wealthy communities. “The Pranksters have certainly come a long way since 2016 in terms of intentional learning and commitment to inclusivity, but students of color still do not feel welcome, so there is still a problem,” Brown explained. Because club sports do not receive the same funding as varsity sports on campus, teams often count on players and their families to make monetary contributions. Although Brown said the Pranksters have always tried to be inclusive by providing monetary aid for those who need it, the personal funds needed for team social activities can be hindering. “Being surrounded by a community that is interpreted as ‘wealthy’ can generally be discouraging for low-income students,” Brown said. “This is also important to note because race and class are undeniably linked, although obviously it’s case by case.” Rugby has made steps to decrease the stress that can be created through these required finances. Freshmen are no longer required to pay the annual dues, and players have the option to rent equipment and gear instead of buying. Megan Salmon ’21 also spoke of issues with racist culture that the team had five years ago. “There was an alum who had a position of power on the team who abused it and created a very racist and generally unwelcoming environment on the team,” Salmon said. “In the years since, it’s my personal opinion that the women's rugby team has done an excellent job of turning around the culture by having meetings discussing the harm and racism, and gradually having more and more BIPOCs present in our leadership positions. Not intentional, but it helped.” Salmon and her teammate Lenny Gusman ’21, both athletes of color, recently facilitated a two-hour dialogue about the history of the prison-industrial complex and policing and how they impact the team and team culture. They plan to continue the conversation by conducting similar meetings throughout the semester. The Pranksters are also having conversations about race and inclusion. Since 2018, the team has held a community workshop each semester with the goal of creating a more inclusive team environment. At these meetings, leaders of the men’s and women’s teams discuss the barriers that are presented through the sport of frisbee and set expectations on how to lessen these obstacles. Now, both the men’s and women’s frisbee teams are committed to adopting the format of these workshops to address issues of Whiteness and exclusivity within the sport. The crew team is in the same boat. “Issues of exclusivity on our team are evident from the overwhelming Whiteness of our membership, high rates of attrition of BIPOC from our team and the unacceptable acts of discrimination, notably microaggressions, that many of our rowers of color have experienced,” captain Sophie Smith ’21 said. Smith explained that the team is planning on changing their financial aid and fundraising system, as well as increasing flexibility to the practice schedule to remove barriers for members who may need to work to support their education. The team is also considering adding new leadership positions, such as a novice captain position, to ensure these changes will be as impactful as possible. Above all, athletes of color emphasised the necessity of a cultural shift in making long lasting changes. “I think it’s important to address the reason why POCs are not joining the teams and tackling them instead of just giving into the consensus that Middlebury club sports are just predominantly White and we can’t do anything.” Gusman said. “Our team still has a long way to go just like everybody in this country, but I am proud of the active steps we have taken. Even if we think we are doing our best we can always do better.” Student athletes raise funds for the Black Lives Matter movement Many sports teams have also stepped up to raise money and awareness in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, using social media as a means to spread information. The women’s swim and dive team organized a fundraising campaign, raising over $4,000 for the Rutland Area NAACP through a 48-hour “sweat-a-thon.” The team donated $1 for every minute of exercise logged and accepted donations through an online fund. Gantt, along with fellow organizer Ellie Thompson ’22, said the fundraiser helped generate conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement among family and community members, who shared posts, educational materials and photos of their workouts on social media. Although she considers the fundraiser successful in garnering support from friends, family and alumni, she isn’t satisfied yet. “We know that it is not enough to raise money,” Gantt said. “We must continue the conversation and do more.” The women and men’s varsity squash teams fundraised a total of $12,260 for the Vermont branch of the ACLU’s Smart Justice Campaign. The teams chose to support a more local organization to “become more engaged with the problems of [their] wider community” and “to spread awareness about the prevalence of racism in Vermont,” according to their official statement. The teams held several discussions over Zoom and shared their learnings with friends, family, alumni and Instagram followers via an informational sheet as part of their fundraising efforts. The squash program will continue their commitment to antiracism by appointing three “Social Justice representatives” who will lead conversations to “ensure awareness of systemic racism.” The teams also plan on designating one match each season as an annual fundraiser for a cause related to Black Lives Matter, according to their latest statement. The women’s soccer team raised over $2,300 to donate to Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a non-profit organization providing legal representation for prisoners who have been wrongfully convicted, unfairly sentenced or abused in jail. Bavier said the team elected to support an organization that actively works to end mass incarceration and inspire lasting change within the criminal justice system. “We appreciated the tangible legal steps implemented to create change, and we found their story incredibly compelling,” Bavier said. The track and field team arranged a virtual 4,000-meter race on July 19 to collect money for the Know Your Rights Camp (KYRC) COVID-19 Relief Fund. Coordinated by Sirek, Kirkpatrick and Holly, the fundraiser supports communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The three organizers explained that they chose the KYRC fund, which was founded by Colin Kaepernick in 2016, for its mission to engender social and economic change in Brown and Black communities across America. So far, the team has collected over $1,500 and expects more donations as the summer continues. Several club sports teams have also joined the fundraising effort to support the Black Lives Matter movement within the sports arena and beyond. Coordinated by Salmon, Gusman and teammate Betsy Romans ’23, women’s rugby hosted a fundraising campaign to support BLD PWR, a Black-run nonprofit organization dedicated to training a more diverse community of entertainers and athletes. The team challenges other clubs to do the same, without disclosing the amount of money raised to avoid performativity. “We believe that group silence contributes to a lack of accountability among individuals which justifies neutrality and inaction — thus serving the agenda of the oppressor,” the team’s social media post stated. “For this reason, we challenge other Middlebury organizations to take the route of action rather than just words.” Similarly, Middlebury’s ultimate frisbee team published a statement of their unequivocal support for the Black Lives Matter movement, outlining a course of action for implementing change in our communities. The Pranksters also raised $4,818 to split between the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington and Ultimate Impact through donations from team members, family, friends and alumni. The sailing team recently collected funds to support Campaign Zero, an organization dedicated to researching policy-based solutions for ending police brutality and urging other NEISA (New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association) to take action. Middlebury’s sailing team is also part of NEISA’s Equity and Inclusion Committee, which elects one representative from each team in the league to discuss issues of exclusivity within the sport of sailing. Middlebury’s crew team gathered monetary donations for three organizations, including the NAACP, National Bail Out and Row New York, which provides academic and athletic support for youth, regardless of background or rowing ability. While team fundraising campaigns have helped spread awareness and raise funds to support anti-racist organizations, each team recognizes that the pocketbook itself is not powerful enough to create permanent change. “We are hopeful that there will be changes at an institutional level to do more to bring prospective POC athletes to Middlebury and increase teams’ diversity,” Gantt said. “We must increase access to our school and our sport so that more Black leaders can emerge and contribute their voice to the national conversation.” Copy Editor Ideal Dowling ’22 contributed reporting.
“Screw your teammate” parties, colloquially known as “SYTs” or “screws,” are a staple of weekend nightlife at Middlebury. Envisioned as a fun, exciting way to meet someone new and get dressed up on a Saturday night, SYTs are popular among sports teams, social houses and other extracurricular groups. But a closer look at the SYT tradition reveals an underlying culture that can be coercive and filled with pressures, especially for younger female students. SYT guidelines dictate that each team member chooses a date for their teammate. Sometimes teammates set each other up with dates they’ve never met before, but match makers will often coordinate with their assigned teammates, who might already have a “Proc crush” or desired significant other in mind. When guests arrive at an SYT — which usually takes place in a social house basement, or a teammate’s townhouse or Atwater suite — they are attached at the wrist to their dates by layers of duct tape. Each pair is also usually taped to a bottle of champagne, and is encouraged to finish the bottle before being separated. Part of the appeal of an SYT is meeting new people. But students say entering a team, club or social house’s space as an outsider often adds a stressful side to these events. “I felt a bit out of place,” said Nate MacDonald ’23, who was recently someone’s date at a sports team’s SYT. “I didn’t know anyone on the team, and teammates all appeared to have their well established friend circles.” Past that initial uneasiness, however, MacDonald said he enjoyed connecting with the members of the team. “Once I settled into this setting and began socializing with people, I felt more comfortable being there,” MacDonald said. “My date and her friends who I interacted with were very open and welcoming … The vibe revolved around dancing, playing drinking games, and socializing.” Ruhi Kamdar ’22, a member of the women’s tennis team, agreed that the SYT party environment poses an exciting opportunity to interact with new students. But she said the process of attending SYTs with strangers and subsequently being duct-taped to them can feel like a double-edged sword. “It’s fun and different because it gives you a chance to interact with a person you may be too shy to get to know,” she said. “However, it puts a lot of pressure on you to hook up with a date, as it’s like a special event of some sort.” According to Julia Fairbank ’23, a member of Middlebury’s club sailing team, one key to a successful, safe SYT is knowing where you stand with your date before the party begins. Fairbank said that in the past she has declined SYT invitations from anonymous athletes because she did not know her date. “The screws and formals I went to were with guys I was either really close to, or was seeing,” she said. Though Fairbank and her friends were invited to several SYTs throughout their first years, she expects they will receive fewer invitations in the future. Why? Because, she suggested, older athletes seem to target younger female students when choosing dates for formals. “I think there are going to be a lot fewer random invites for me and my friends in the coming years,” Fairbank noted. “Most screws and formals feel definitely very aimed at freshman girls as dates.” The question of ethics of pairing upperclassmen guys with younger freshmen girls for date parties was raised in the Opinions pages in The Campus three years ago, by Esme Valette ’16. In her op-ed, “Leave Your Attitudes at Home,” Valette wrote about her disgust at receiving a lewd invitation from senior men in the class of 2014, informing younger female invitees that they had been “selected” as dates for a “Hunter and the Hunted Party.” Men were to be dressed as hunters, while women were asked to dress like wild animals and “leave [their] attitudes at home.” But some suggest that the disproportionate number of invites extended to first-year women might be an accident. Cole Crider ’23, a member of both the baseball and football teams, said this dynamic may instead result from the spectrum of class years on the team. “This comes from the underclassmen sometimes choosing dates for the people older than them, and also vice versa,” Crider explained. Crider — who has experienced both the choose-your-own date and “blind invite” models of SYT invitation — said that most male athletes who select younger female dates for their teammates are not ill-intentioned. When asked about the hook-up culture at team SYTs, Crider said that the only pressure he perceived was that he be a fun date. “I feel like the only pressure I experienced was from having a date who came to the SYT with you, because you liked something about them and you enjoy spending time around them,” Crider said. Catherine Blazye ’20, a member of the women’s tennis team, said she thinks the culture of the team or group hosting a gathering can often determine how women are treated at these parties. She also said Middlebury’s hook-up culture is to blame for expectations that dates will hook up with the team members who invited them. “When I was a freshman I remember being really sad that my date didn’t like me,” Blazye said. “I was like, ‘What’s wrong with me,’ which I think is the toxic culture surrounding SYTs. I think people sometimes big it up a lot as an event to get with someone you think is super cute.” Instead, she said, we should consider the SYT an opportunity to connect with new people and to bond with teammates. “I still think it’s a great chance to meet someone different or just have fun with someone for a night playing pong and socializing,” she said. “It should be portrayed as a fun date party with all of your teammates — as I have got older this is what I have realized.”
As colleges and universities close their campuses nationwide in response to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, students around the world are asked to upend their lives and stay home in the name of public safety. For college athletes, many of whom were just getting used to regimented weekly practice routines this spring, sheltering in place poses an additional question: how to stay in shape. Many Panthers – robbed of a season of play – must now redefine what it means to be a college athlete in the age of a pandemic. With limited access to facilities, players are asked to improvise their workout programs, often substituting competition with more basic strength and endurance routines from home “The hardest part for the players is the fact that they have trained for the past eight months preparing for the 2020 season and now that season is over so they are forced to switch back into an ‘off-season’ mindset,” said Mike Leonard, head coach of the baseball team. Some Middlebury baseball players look forward to competing in a collegiate summer league composed mostly of Division I and Division II athletes. Others might not have the opportunity to compete over the summer, but Leonard there are still avenues for productivity. “This will be a time for them to reflect on where they are physically and use the next several months to put themselves in a position to compete at a higher level for the 2021 season,” he said. Other teams, like the women’s tennis team, will focus primarily on physical training throughout the coming months. Team member Emily Bian ’21 is from Austin, Texas, where the state’s governor just instituted a stay-at-home order. “At home, I don’t really have easy access to courts or people to hit with,” Bian said. “So I’m going to focus more on just staying in shape, less on keeping up my technique, match skills or tennis endurance.” Bian’s team was just gearing up for a week-long training trip in California when President Laurie Patton made the call to close the campus. Now practicing self-isolation from their homes around the globe, team members are exploring different avenues in order to maintain their physical condition, including online workout plans developed by their coaches and trainers. Bian plans to adopt a workout routine of diverse activities to target different parts of the body. She has discovered various digital platforms to guide her workouts, including Volt, an interactive app used by many Middlebury sports coaches to monitor their players’ physical activity. “There are so many online classes that live stream for free, especially during this turbulent time, so I’m going to take advantage of those and attend HIIT classes to maintain my strength and yoga to maintain my flexibility,” Bian said. Meanwhile, fall and winter athletes are also adjusting their off-season training schedules to keep their bodies in shape during the long break. While Middlebury’s swim teams finished their seasons a few weeks ago at the NESCAC Swimming & Diving Championships, Haley Hutchinson ’23 was anticipating returning to the pool in early March. Hutchinson, a native Californian who spends much of her day in the pool and at the gym, may be forced to find new habits. “I won’t be competing until the fall so it doesn’t change that so much,” she said, “but definitely not being able to swim is very different than what I’m used to.” While Hutchinson’s coaches encourage her team to follow the weekly fitness programs they curated on Volt, made up of body-weight exercises and stretches, they recognize that intense training may be difficult to implement during home quarantine. “They’ve stressed that doing whatever you can is important,” Hutchinson noted, “and that may look different for everyone.” Settling in for what seems like a few more months inside, coaches and players alike are reconnecting and preparing for the next season. Rachel Kahan, head coach of the women’s tennis team, noted that her group continues to grow through on-screen interaction and by pushing each other to stay in physical shape. “Since we have a close-knit group,” she said, “they are checking in with each other and motivating each other to utilize this time to continue to grow and improve, so when we are back together and competing again we will be ready to go.”