by Ethan Feng ’21
Published Dec. 23rd, 2020
Athletes across New Jersey felt their hearts drop last month following Governor Murphy’s executive order no. 204, which banned all organized indoor sports until after the new year.
This order marks yet another development in a series of heartbreaks for athletes during the pandemic. Since the March lockdown, athletes have been taken on a rollercoaster of emotions, forced to adapt to inconsistent training and competing conditions.
“Being away from the pool for so long has been really hard,” said Owen Tennant, Princeton High School ‘21. Tennant, an avid competitive swimmer, hopes to continue his career at Colorado College Swimming next school year. “There’s no consistency—and that’s what’s scary.”
Before the pandemic, Tennant’s club team had a training schedule of five to seven practices a week; now that number dwindles anywhere from zero to three times a week. Athletes like Tennant have been forced to turn to other means to keep themselves physically primed. “I’ve been lifting a lot more,” Tennant said. “I joined Lifetime a few months ago because we weren’t swimming much and I still wanted to stay in shape and get better.”
Tennant finds staying mentally healthy a more difficult task. Without consistent training and meets to look forward to, many athletes, including several on Tennant’s team, face stagnation in motivation and performance. “They just stop trying, they stop putting in 100% in practice, it’s really sad to see actually,” remarks Coach Jen, Tennant’s head coach. “Some kids don’t even bother to show up to practice anymore.”
While safety is undoubtedly the top priority, the pandemic and lockdown have had a considerable negative impact on thousands of athletes nationwide. For these young people, sport is more than just a way to keep physically fit; it’s a lifestyle, a mentality, a way of living, according to Time Magazine.
Measures are being taken to motivate athletes, however. In a press conference over the summer, USA Swimming, the national governing body of American competitive swimming, announced slower time cuts “to maintain a level playing field,” recognizing “that many of our clubs have limited or no access to facilities.”
It’s fair to say that most athletes are disappointed by this new order, to say the least. Many, like Tennant, have mixed feelings: “There have been no cases on our team,” he says. “We have really strict social distancing protocols in and out of the pool. I don’t think there’s a right response, anything is going to cause controversy. I just hope Governor Murphy re-evaluates and keeps us athletes in mind when making the next decision.”