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What It's Like To Be A COVID-Era College Softball Freshman

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After graduating from high school in a way no one expected, the class of 2024 had to start their collegiate careers with numerous challenges thrown their way. College softball freshmen had to learn how to take college courses online, find a way to adjust and practice with new protocols.

Softball America caught up with two college softball freshmen to discuss how they are adjusting to their new lives.

Elizabeth Viox is a freshman at Division II Missouri S&T and Grace Braun is a freshman at Division III Illinois College.

Softball America: How is the academic side of college working at your school this year?

Elizabeth Viox: At our school, we are doing some classes in person, some hybrid and some completely online. My schedule just happened to be completely online with some in-person testing and openness on how groups want to meet, so I am often on Zoom.

Grace Braun: My college is doing a hybrid schedule, which means that some days I have class and some days I do not. Even though I have in-person classes, they all have an aspect of online learning that goes with them. All of my assignments are turned in electronically and all my tests are taken online as well.

SA: Has your softball program been able to practice?

EV: My softball team has been able to practice almost normally. We all wear masks most of the time, including at weights and during many drills. Also, we are sanitizing and disinfecting equipment frequently. We do our best to social distance and only take our masks off if it is guaranteed we are socially distancing outside.

GB: My softball program has been lucky and able to continue practicing during these circumstances. We were able to have five weeks of fall ball. In order to practice, we had to split up into groups of less than 12. So we split into groups of infielders, outfielders and pitchers and catchers. We have fortunately been able to practice outside for all of fall.

SA: What restrictions have been put in place at your college that have made life different?

EV: For the first couple weeks on campus, we were not even allowed visitors. Visitors are still highly discouraged and large groups are not allowed to meet, so that is still very different from normal college experiences.

GB: Some restrictions put into place at my school have changed a lot of things. One thing they have added is requiring masks to be worn inside at all times and outside when social distancing cannot be maintained. Another thing they have changed is the guest policy. No outside guests are allowed in any of the residential buildings.

SA: How has college been different than your expectation of it?

EV: Before COVID-19, I expected to meet a lot of new people in classes, extracurriculars and get-togethers. However, I have been a lot more limited in meeting people than previously expected.

GB: My expectation of college changed when COVID-19 hit. Before COVID, I expected to be able to have people in my room and be able to just hang out in groups and get to know people without having to worry about socially distancing and wearing a mask. When COVID started to hit and all of these different restrictions were put into place, I really did not know what to expect. I was just hoping that I would still be able to come on campus and experience at least a little bit of what college is like.

SA: What are your concerns for the upcoming season?

EV: I am concerned about having to play in a mask this upcoming season because it affects how well I can see the ball and catch my breath. More concerning is just not getting to play or having a limited schedule. It would also be disappointing not having fans. I am also just nervous about the season overall because I am a freshman and don't really know what to expect.

GB: Some of my concerns for softball in the upcoming season are being able to play games and do things as a whole team. I want to be able to go to Florida, which is the big trip my team takes, because I feel like that is an experience I will never be able to get back.

SA: What are you most excited for in the upcoming season?

EV: I am most excited to play some competitive ball. I'm excited to see where the team goes this year, especially because we have such a large and strong underclassmen group.

GB: I am most excited about playing with my team and creating a bond with my teammates that will last forever.

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