There may be snow on the ground, and the groundhog may have seen his shadow, but spring is in the air at the athletic facilities. Feb. 1 marked the first day spring sports teams could legally practice with a coach present, and players on the Garnet baseball, softball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and men’s and women’s tennis teams dove in with enthusiasm.
While coaches’ approaches to practice may differ, for each team the most important thing is to shake off the cobwebs accumulated during the offseason. Rory McTear ’13, who plays baseball, said the team works to stay in shape through the fall and winter, but acknowledged, “There is always a period of adjustment when formal practices begin again.”
To try to lessen the need to adjust, McTear said members of the baseball team had been practicing together at the beginning of the semester, hoping to “mirror actual team practices.” Other teams operate similarly. Annalise Penikis ’13, a lacrosse player, said, “It hasn’t been too hard adjusting to practice because most everyone was already taking time out of their day to work out and play before the season started.”
Different teams take different approaches to the early season. Penikis said that women’s lacrosse emphasizes conditioning and fundamentals of the game in the opening practices. “We work on possession, the components of solid team defense, and offensive movement,” she said. “Later in the season there is less general instruction [or] breaking down the game. We generally focus on things that need work based on games.
“In contrast, McTear said the baseball team works on plays earlier in the season before focusing on fundamentals as the season progresses: “We work heavily on team drills that may not need to be covered later in the spring, such as 1st and 3rd plays and bunt defenses. By April, these types of plays will become second nature for us and practices then usually focus more on hitting and individual defensive work.”
The senior players were excited by the enthusiasm shown by the younger players in particular. Penikis noted that not only were players ready to begin the season, “The intensity at practice is definitely a step up from last year (especially this early in the season) and our freshmen are definitely a big part of that.” McTear said the baseball players are experiencing cabin fever, since although “everyone is pumped up to be practicing as a team again,” they are nevertheless “hoping for some good weather so that we can get outside on our field soon.” Penikis, who can practice on the artificial turf of Clothier Field, lamented that practices are “cold,” although this in no way dampened her enthusiasm for the season.
All of the teams have about a month to prepare for their first games, with most home openers coming in the week before spring break. After that, the teams flee to warmer climes, with games in California, Florida, or South Carolina. The full schedules, including the spring break trips, are available at www.swarthmoreathletics.com.