By Bianca Macias
Typically, by this time of the year, most of the Riverside City College softball team has already met during the summer workouts that prepare it for the fall and the spring season.
This year, the team’s ritual for success has been exchanged with communication through Zoom and their TeamSynced App as a result of COVID-19.
“We have not been able to meet face-to-face in person at this point to even have the opportunity to hold practices with social distancing in effect,” head coach Michelle Daddona said about how social distancing has interfered with the team. “We are restricted to virtual workouts and practices.”
Along with restrictions to the team’s workouts, Daddona said its recruiting process has been altered. Prospective RCC student athletes are submitting videos and emails to make initial contact due to the lack of in-person recruiting. The coaching staff then follows up.
Daddona said the staff has also reached out to travel ball and high school coaches with the team’s current position openings.
The biggest struggle that the team has faced, according to Daddona, is distance learning.
“Athletes are used to moving and not being at the computer for such long periods of time,” she said.
The team gets to move during workouts, but she said it is not the same.
“There are no high fives or verbal celebrations,” Daddona said. “Being on the ball field, having the grass or dirt under your feet, is missing.”
The team is also juggling time management issues due to online class schedules. Many student athletes have also had to get jobs to help support their families as hours have been cut and jobs lost due to COVID-19.
The Tigers Softball Program has shown resilience through the struggles with victories off of the field.
“We are in the mind frame (that) we are going to be better because of COVID-19,” Daddona said.
She went on to mention that the team checks in on each other every day to maintain a strong support system.
The coach’s main concern at the moment is for the student athletes’ well-being. She said she wants players to take care of themselves mentally, physically and emotionally, as these are stressful times and there is a lot going on.
Carrah Van Houten, 19, a right-handed pitcher, shared that the team often talks over stress reduction techniques to minimize the effects it may have on their bodies in the long run. She praised the coaching staff for continuously making their presence known in the student athletes’ lives.
“They are here for us and super easy to talk to,” Van Houten said .
Daddona shares Brian Cain videos with the team to support them in their mental health discussions. Cain is a mental conditioning coach who has worked with professional athletes of several sports.
“The Brian Cain videos helped me realize my brain just needed to turn the light switch on and see the sun through the stormy clouds,” Van Houten said.
There is uncertainty as to whether or not there will be a softball season this year. Daddona is worried about what will happen to second-year athletes who were given their year back to play another season. She wonders if they will see another season if years are continued to be granted back.
Daddona believes that temperature checks, symptom screening and sanitization will be a part of the coaching role when play resumes. She urged the Tigers to protect themselves in the meantime by social distancing, wearing masks, washing their hands often and using sanitizer.
Van Houten said the team will continue to persevere.
“This season was like a missed-called pitch,” Van Houten said. “Coach asked for a fast ball and 2020 threw us a curve ball instead. But being that we are athletes we learn to roll with the punches.”