OCC athletes adapting, preparing for sports to return

OCC athletes, including baseball players, are training and preparing for their seasons in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The collegiate athlete has not had an easy seven months since the coronavirus pandemic closed schools and canceled sports seasons. 

Spring athletes across the country were geared up to compete before their seasons came to an abrupt end. More than half a year later, those same players will join fall athletes in the wait for programs to resume. 

“The hardest part for me personally is not having my stress reliever,” Orange Coast College Volleyball libero and defensive specialist Alyssa Linnell said. “Just not having that is very difficult because I’m so used to always playing.”

Like many other fall athletes, Linnell should be well into her first athletic season at OCC. Now barring setbacks, most fall and winter teams are planning to return in January or early February.

With a good idea of when competition might resume at the collegiate level, preparing to return has become a top priority for athletes – even if it means on their own.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I was training by myself. I put a piece of wood up against the wall and hit a ball against it,” Linnell said. “Our coaches even asked us to practice with our masks on to train our lungs. They’re talking about how we’ll have to wear them for practices. It’s very difficult because I work really hard to where I can’t breathe already, so having that limits my performance.”  

The idea of competing at a high level while having a mask on does not bode well with athletes. Amidst the pandemic, however, it’s just another obstacle they must face.   

This past half-year has been especially hard on OCC’s baseball team.

“The struggles of the baseball team are bigger than just the pandemic,” Pirates pitcher Spencer Axe said. “Obviously with what happened with Coach John Altobelli right beforehand, we all wanted to play and win for him. When it all got shut down, it was especially hard because we didn’t know how long it would be.”

Seven months later, the baseball team finds themselves completely on their own to train for next spring.

“What can we do to improve? The weight rooms are closed, you can’t go on campus. We had some players get onto the baseball field to throw. They got kicked out right away,” Axe said.

The next dimension of improvement for the baseball team is chemistry. Most teams adopted Zoom as their medium to communicate amongst players and coaches, but the effectiveness of team conferencing remains unknown.

“Pitchers and position players Zoom twice a week on separate calls,” Axe said. “We’ve had a few players leave to go D1 and D2 and we’re going to have a huge freshman class. We’re definitely going to have to get into that team mentality quickly.”

One positive aspect of quarantine Axe mentioned was his ability to grind on his own time.

“If anything, I’d think quarantine has helped. This has just given me more time in the weight room and less traditional practice,” Axe said. “I am not worried about failing to make it to the next level.”

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