After six long months of quarantined bliss, the school year has returned. The occasional “I am going to run today” speech is still looming in the back of your mind, the social skills involved with interacting with someone other than your dog are finally coming back to life and, of course, the bright orange Dorito dust you thought was cemented onto your fingertips is finally withering away.
Our lovely community of athletes each dealt with quarantine a little differently. There are the idol leaders of the group who are stronger than ever because they had ambition, courage and mom and dad’s credit card to buy a home gym. There are the kids who threw everyone for a loop when they arrived on campus looking like they finally hit puberty. There are the freakishly talented athletes who do nothing for six months but sit at home, go fishing every once in a while, drink way too much beer and still manage to win the starting spot over you (that one is a goodie). Then finally, there are the kids who did not bother to come to campus because they made such a perfect indent on the couch that it would have been way too hard to say goodbye to all of that hard-earned work.
One of the scariest parts of quarantine that every student-athlete fears is receiving that random text from your coach to make sure you are not doing exactly what you are doing (sitting in your bed and watching “The Office” on repeat). Being able to see your fellow teammate on campus for the first time was great. You ran up to them and just before you were about to hug, the little belly pouch underneath the belly button, where you stash your extra cookies, bumps together. This has become the universal COVID-19 handshake.
Finally, after six months of only seeing the neck up on Zoom, it is time for your first in-person team meeting. You show up and everyone is wearing a large sweatshirt, in hopes that none of your teammates will notice the “water weight” you have been carrying around, even though it is summer and 90 degrees. Thankfully the meeting ends, no one says or notices anything and you come to the decision to begin the biggest health kick of your life before practice starts.