While most students spent their winter break eating Christmas cookies and relaxing with friends and family, a select group of students were hard at work. Thirteen student athletes packed up their bags and trekked back to Springfield College on Dec. 27, returning to the polished court of Blake arena for a pair of two-hour practices and the stale air of the weight room for lift.
This was the reality for the Springfield College women’s basketball team. As each of the winter sports teams experienced, winter breaks were cut short for the more pressing activity: their seasons.
Winter sports seasons are long, often beginning as early as October and extending through February. During this period, athletes must work through three major portions: the second half of the fall semester, winter intersession, and the first half of the spring semester. Although each chapter brings a different focus and obstacles to overcome, the reality remains the same: their season is underway, and it waits for no one. Athletes must always be on their game.
Each student-athlete knows the importance of balancing sports with school, but only winter athletes have grown accustomed to the unique grind of winter intersession. Sophomore point guard Alex Goslin knows this demand well, and recognizes the sacrifice that she, like every winter athlete, must make.
“At first you sort of dread going back, because you’re with your family at home and it’s fun to see your friends from home,” Goslin said. “But then once we’re back on campus with just the team, it’s really fun.”
The joy comes from a variety of elements, including holiday celebrations with teammates, Cheney chilling with coaches, and critical growth on the court. Winter intersession is a key aspect of the women’s basketball team.
An average day starts with practice from 9 to 10 a.m. to focus on breaking down specific skills. The athletes are awarded a midday break, then it’s back on the court for practice from 1 to 3 p.m. to apply those skills in game-like drills and scrimmages. Despite the long hours of hard work, Goslin knows the importance of these sessions in relation to their season as a whole.
“Practicing for three hours a day is very useful for our team to get better and really improve on little skills that we may not get as much time to fit into a two hour practice during the season,” said Goslin. “While there are more physical demands, I would say there’s less social and psychological demands.”
Intercession is the only time during the winter season when athletes don’t have to stress about classes and exams. Instead, the only concerns are basketball and the team. This allows players to relax and spend time with each other, which is a joy that is often overlooked during the semesters.
“We’ll hang out in Cheney in between [practices] for the whole time, and our coaches eat with us, so we get super close with them too,” said Goslin. “It’s really cool to be able to have that time, because during the school year everyone is so busy.”
In addition to bonding with the coaches, players also have the opportunity to bond with each other, which is especially unique being away from their families during the holiday time.
“It’s a cool thing to be with your team around the holidays, because everyone is like, ‘Oh we’re with our families,’ but that just brings us that much closer,” explained Goslin. “We have our holiday celebrations when we come back, and it’s not just like we’re back at school and it’s the same old.”
Similar to other winter sports teams, the women’s basketball team has developed their own holiday traditions, including a yankee swap, a hibachi night, and a New Year’s celebration complete with Chinese takeout. Although they were away from their biological families at home, most of the players lived together in Alumni Hall, creating a community of sisters here at Springfield.
“We were all there to walk around the halls with each other,” recalled Goslin. “It was super fun to finally have everyone be together on campus.”
This unity caries directly onto the court, and considering how close the NEWMAC conference is, every game is important. It will take the effort of all 13 players to get to postseason play, and Goslin believes the team’s biggest focus lies in building each other up and, “really honing in on our details and getting everyone to a level where we need them to be.”
Now that the intersession has come to an end, winter athletes must change mindsets once again, into the third and final chapter of their seasons. However, it is obstacles like winter break that build an athlete’s sense of versatility.
“I feel like the changes help our team develop an adaptable mindset,” said Goslin. “We have so many different portions of our season. On the court and off the court, we have to communicate a lot and we have to be able to adjust when things don’t go as planned or we have a mix up, so I feel like it adds to our ability to adapt.”