By Hayden Choate
In March of 2020, when the majority of the Springfield College went home for what they thought would just be “spring break”, in a way, the head coach of the Springfield College women’s soccer team, John Gibson, did the same.
Gibson returned to his hometown of Cardiff, Wales on March 13, 2020. Originally thinking he would be staying there for a week to care for his 94-year old mother.
Gibson did not return to the United States until July 7th, 2020.
“It was quite an adventure,” Gibson said.
Ever since he moved to Springfield over twenty years ago, Gibson usually travels back to Wales in December for Christmas and spends a few weeks there in the summer. Having dual-citizenship was how Gibson went to Wales in March then was able to come back in July.
“That’s the only reason we could do it was because I was ‘going home’,” Gibson said.
It all began in December of 2019 when Gibson’s mother was not doing very well. He and his wife, Susan, extended their annual Christmas stay and came back to the states in late-January.
Gibson and the women’s soccer team were supposed to go to Spain for their spring break trip but when that got canceled, he saw it as an opportunity to go check in on his mother.
“We were planning to go to Spain during spring break for that trip,” Gibson said. “Then the trip got cancelled and I thought I’d go back and see my mum and hopefully she was doing better.”
During his almost four-month stay in Wales, Gibson noted a lot of things were different there, especially in terms of rules as the COVID-19 pandemic began to grow.
“It was locked down a lot tighter,” Gibson said.
In Cardiff, Gibson and his wife were barely allowed to leave their house once the lockdown really began.
“We had our rental car, I took it back and dropped it off and we went six weeks without even having a car,” Gibson said. “In Wales you couldn’t go anywhere, you’re supposed to stay within walking distance of your house, unless you were going to work or the doctor.”
In Wales, traveling outside of a certain city could even get you a ticket.
“Within the city you could drive around and hardly see a police car,” Gibson said. “But in the major roads outside (the city), they were stopping cars asking ‘Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Why are you doing this?’ and people were trying to go on walks in the countryside were getting tickets written and sent home.”
While in Wales, the only place Gibson and his wife could go that was open was the grocery store.
“There were four supermarkets within walking distance, one about 15 minutes thats was a small one,” Gibson said. “A bigger one about half an hour walk which was alright because we had nothing else to do, the weather was absolutely gorgeous.”
Like the rest of Springfield College and the world, Gibson had to teach his graduate class on Zoom.
“I was doing my Thursday night class on Zoom like everyone was at that point,” Gibson said. “It was a seven o’clock class but it was starting at midnight where I was and going until two in the morning.”
Gibson believes he could have returned to the United States earlier than he did but the process was very frustrating at first.
“For the first two months there were just no flights, I kept booking new ones and they kept cancelling them,” Gibson said.
In the end, spending the summer during a pandemic in two different countries was quite an interesting experience for Gibson.
“In a strange way it wasn’t bad, in fact it was very pleasant,” Gibson said. “The weather was nice, but you couldn’t see your friends because you couldn’t meet up with people.”
Thankfully, Gibson’s mother is still doing very well. Gibson was able to go back to Wales this past Christmas and plans to go back when classes end in May.
Photo: Springfield Athletics