New student athletes find community among teammates

Kelli Burell, Staff Writer

Signing with a new sports team is a momentous occasion for a college athlete, but a pandemic can certainly impact this process. With fall sports postponed and an unknowable future for winter and spring sports, first-year and transfer student athletes are left wondering what their first season on a new team will look like.

Transfer student Alex Blaszyk, a pitcher and outfielder for Westmont’s baseball team, described how this season has forced him to change the way in which he practices.

Blaszyk said, “You have to figure out different ways to get stronger without gym equipment and finding somewhere to throw without a throwing partner, so you just have to make your own way, like I would throw up a net and hit into a net and throw into a net and just do at-home workouts.”

Cameron Phelps, another transfer student and pitcher for the baseball team, expressed the difficulty of not being able to practice on a more emotional level.

They don’t make you feel like you’re irrelevant on the team just because you’re an underclassman.”

— Jessica Terlizzi

Phelps stated, “Our Coach brought up today that sometimes baseball can be seen as your identity, just because we’ve grown up playing it, and loving the environment of it and then not having it now, you feel a little disconnected and not yourself sometimes.”

First-year Isaac Swanson, goalkeeper for the men’s soccer team, acknowledged the struggle of practicing, but also felt that quarantine was beneficial for his personal fitness. 

Swanson said, “I haven’t been able to play official games or have regular training sessions with a lot of people, so in that aspect [COVID-19] has probably slowed me down. But as far as the fitness part of things, I’ve improved a whole lot more, more so than I would have if we had continued playing.”

He attributed this to the extra time he’s had on his hands during quarantine.

Despite social distancing and mask-wearing, these student-athletes feel that they are right at home on their Westmont sports teams. A common thread through these students’ experiences is that of camaraderie. Each one mentions the impact the community of their respective teams has had on them and their decision to sign with Westmont.

Jessica Terlizzi, a first-year member of the women’s volleyball team, said, “I think one of the biggest reasons I committed here was how welcoming the girls were and how they have so much respect for each other and the coach, and they don’t make you feel like you’re irrelevant on the team just because you’re an underclassman.”

Adding to that sentiment, Swanson disclosed, “Even before I was a part of the team, everyone treated me like family and to the coaches, I wasn’t just another player — I was like their son: they cared about my grades, how I am in my spiritual life, my mental health, all aspects of my life, whereas at other schools I’m just a guy on the roster.”

Finally, Blaszyk stated, “I moved in on Sunday so I’ve been here five or six days and I already feel so close to the players.”

Even in the midst of a pandemic, these new students have found ways to better themselves physically and socially. While wearing masks and staying six feet apart, these student-athletes are building a community for themselves among their peers and teammates.