“I can’t tell if I’m out of shape or this mask is making me think too hard about breathing.”
The same thought went through my head as my teammate spoke it. I had just gotten done doing sprints around the lacrosse field with pushups or sit-ups at each corner. I could feel my gator mask around my face and neck, semi-wet with my own sweat. I could taste my own mask whenever I took a breath through my mouth and smelling my own sweat when I took a breath through my nose. Neither option was ideal, and I felt as if I was breathing and sweating harder than ever. But really when I thought about it, I was having a great time.
I was on a turf field again instead of being met with fences and padlocks. I had cleats on instead of staying in socks or slippers all day. I was working out with my teammates instead of doing lonely workouts with YouTube instructors. I was getting just a little bit of normalcy back.
Luckily for the students at Juniata, we have been welcomed back to campus this semester. While things look a bit different than the last semester I had at Juniata, I am still happy to be here. Students are still able to have new surroundings, see peers, friends and professors, participate in campus activities, and participate in athletics.
Juniata has two cycles for athletes. For six weeks, certain sports are allowed to have an off season and the other teams follow up with the next six. Being a two-sport athlete, I never had an off season, and now I have two. Being in my parent’s house all quarantine, I had never had a COVID test, and now, because of athletics, I’ve had one every week.
I think “weird” is the easiest word to use for all of us in COVID times. Being an athlete at my school has been weird for sure with testing, masks, and temperature checks, but I’m happy I’m here. Many other schools, including all in my athletic conference, have not been able to have students back or have practices. My teammates and I have practice to look forward to during my day and we can go to bed contentedly tired after a good workout.
I’ll just keep praying for water breaks when I can finally pull my mask down for a second.