After a year without a season, or shortened competition schedules, and no cheering fans, these Grizzlies are happy to be out of hibernation.

Sharing their perspectives on the last year are:

Men’s lacrosse, Ian McFarlane, senior business marketing major, from Las Vegas Nevada;
Women’s volleyball, Shannon Mulkey, fifth-year senior psychology major, from Parker, Texas;
Football, John Bowers, Master of Business Administration graduate student, from Midland Park, New Jersey.

Best part of being back after COVID:

McFarlane: Finding a way to feel normal again. “We spent the year before stressed out about what was going to happen next, not knowing if we were going to be in a classroom the next week or if we would go home again. Being back on the field gave us at least an hour where nothing else mattered, we didn’t care what happened after for that hour. We got to be in the moment and feel normal.”

Mulkey: The opportunity to play. “So many teams weren’t able to have a season, and I was happy that our school, our conference, and our Athletic Department was able to give us that opportunity. It was good to get to play with my team, and to compete, after being apart for so long, and having a difficult previous year because of COVID.”

Bowers: “Competing again with all my brothers.”

Describe your first experience competing again after the pandemic:

John Bowers
John Bowers

Bowers: “My first experience after COVID was definitely filled with nerves because we had not competed for so long. It was also exciting, however, because I initially did not know if the pandemic would force me to forego my senior season. That first time being back on the field under the lights playing another opponent was definitely one of my best memories of this season.”

Mulkey: “Our first games back from COVID were different, we played a different schedule than we were used to and wore masks during our game, but even though it was under challenging circumstances, I think everyone was just happy to be back competing.”

McFarlane: “The first time competing was different, not being able to have anyone in the stands was a bit of a shock. It changed the atmosphere of the games, but in the moment, I don’t think any of my teammates really cared. We just had our season cut the year before and I think we all just wanted to be in the moment and take every game from there on out as an opportunity, because our last game could be at any moment.”

How were your coaches supportive and encouraging during the pandemic?

Mulkey: “Our coaching staff (Head Coach Lindy Mortensen) was understanding and cautious about the protocol for coming back to play after COVID, but I think they were just as happy to be back as we all were. I think our coaches handled the new COVID rules well, and were understanding that girls on the team were stressed about all the changes, but I think it was handled in a way that made us all feel supported, even though our first season back was different.”

McFarlane: “Coach (Jerome Austin) always was behind us making sure we were doing okay not only on the field, but in the classroom. Coach always encouraged us to get tutors to help us get the extra help that we weren’t really getting in the online classes. Coach always pushes us to work through adversity, and this was a way for us to push through that adversity in the real world not just on the field.”

Bowers: “Our coaches, under the direction of Coach (Jarrell) Harrison, were encouraging throughout the pandemic and provided excellent support systems to help players cope with the recent challenges. Our team knew that we always had people to talk to who had our best interests at heart. Coach Harrison also instilled the saying “W.I.N”, or “what’s important now” to keep us encouraged and focused that our present actions are continuously helping us reach our long-term goals for the program.”

Was there a challenge about being competition ready again after almost a year off?

McFarlane: “For me I didn’t see a challenge in getting competition ready, I missed the competition during quarantine. After a year off all I wanted was the chance to compete again, and the biggest challenge I faced was not knowing if or when I would be able to compete again.”

Bowers: “Even though we had not competed for a year, our team had constantly practiced during the pandemic to get ready for our first game in September 2021. Taking a year off did not pose as much of a challenge as much as it instilled a sense of excitement about being competitive and putting the pads on to face an opponent again.”

Mulkey: “I think my team is always ready to play and to compete, no matter the circumstances. No matter how difficult it was for our team to train during breaks at home, because of COVID, our team found a way to work to be ready for season. I think that my teammates and I, like I said, were just happy to finally be back on the court. It took some adjusting to get used to how different practices and games were, plus mask and COVID testing protocol, but our Athletic Department was very supportive of all athletes during the changes of that time.”