WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS. -- In her twenty years of coaching field hockey at Williams College head coach Alix Barrale, who was a standout player for the Ephs in the early 1990s, has never seen a year like this, where all fall sports in NESCAC have been canceled.
While the Ephs and the rest of the field hockey teams in NESCAC are allowed to train and practice on campus no scrimmages or games will take place in the fall of 2020 for Barrale's Ephs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our goal this fall is to SHARPEN OUR SKILLS, I want each player to touch the ball 300-500 times a practice," stated Barrale. "Our focus is accuracy and precision…whether it is passing, shooting, or receiving. Typically, in years past, we have not had the luxury of spending extended periods of time fine tuning our skill set since each week we are preparing for competition. Now, we are able to break down skills and build a base for creating good habits that will carry over to next season."
Barrale's roster on campus this fall consists of three first years, seven sophomores, one junior, one senior and senior goalie Liv Dulany comes to practice once a week to play in goal.
"I am extremely pleased with the gains we have made in this endeavor," noted Barrale. "Our pod of 12 attacks each practice with intensity and focus. It helps that we create competitions within every practice with prizes for the winners. We are able to measure our progress and compare our accomplishments week to week."
Barrale continued, "For the past six years we start every practice with a grateful heart and each team member writes three things she is grateful for her journal. This fall is no different. While we can no longer gather in the locker room and participate in some of our team rituals our grateful journaling is alive and well."
The Ephs train on Williamson Field four times a week and they lift twice a week.
"Our group of five seniors have been nothing but selfless," added Barrale. "Faced with losing their final season at Williams they stepped aside so we could meet the criteria of 12 people in a pod. We joke that it was probably the best move for our emotional health. I still tear up when I see them. I feel their absence every practice and miss them terribly."
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of aspects of normal life for everyone on the planet. "The hardest adjustment to this fall has been not being able to gather as a team and spend time together away from the athletic field," Barrale stated. "For years we have had team dinners at my house. It has become a welcome tradition. I miss these get-togethers and opportunities to connect in a different way than on the field."
On the bright side, however, Barrale was quick to note, "The best take away from this fall experience has been how our players are inspirational. They make the most of every minute we spend together on Williamson Field. Their positive attitudes coupled with their drive to improve lift me up and push me to embrace our reality. They inspire me to be a better coach. Rather than focus on what we don't have/what we aren't allowed to do we have made a commitment to demand the best version(s) of ourselves no matter the restrictions."