Off-Campus Athletes Stay Connected During COVID-19


College second-year and baseball player Nick Rosa-Palermo leads a yoga session. Photo Courtesy of Nick Rosa Palermo

With the sudden cancelation of the 2020 spring season, followed by the cancelation of fall sports, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Oberlin Athletics has been staggering. Most third-year athletes are off-campus this semester, making it difficult for teams to try and stay connected during the pandemic. However, Oberlin coaches and athletes alike are taking the adversity in stride and coming up with unique and creative solutions to maintain their community.

Oberlin football’s coaching staff continues to find ways to facilitate a strong bond among players. With new Head Coach Steve Opgenorth leading the charge, the team has worked to keep morale high.

“We’ve tried to look at the challenges as opportunities to navigate through the Zoom world in an effective and efficient way,” Opgenorth said. “It’s been tough to find different ways to engage the energy, enthusiasm, and commitment needed to get this program rolling in all facets, but our coaching staff and current players have done a great job of adapting to our new reality.”

The team has taken action to ensure that players are getting the most they can out of this time. 

“In every way, we’ve tried to give our players the tools and resources needed to [get] as much out of the college football experience as possible to date,” Opgenorth said. “I’ve included guest speakers in Zoom team meetings throughout the past six months to engage our program in different ways. [We’ve had] conversations involving social issues, and time spent … in building our 2021 recruiting class.”

Cross Country and Track and Field Head Coach Ray Appenheimer has noticed that, despite the challenges, both the track and field and cross country teams have risen to the occasion.

“I think these past five months have only reinforced how strong our community is and how much we need one another,” Appenheimer said. “Not unlike a traditional competitive season, our spring and summer is full of stories where folks on the team were there for one another, picking them up when they needed it.”

College second-year and baseball player Nick Rosa-Palermo has been leading Zoom yoga classes to strengthen bonds with his teammates while helping them maintain their mental and physical health. 

“It was my goal to spread the knowledge from my newly found passion and its benefits to my teammates,” Rosa-Palermo said. “These classes have brought us closer together by sharing our time, our effort, and our reflections together — how we can be better teammates and how we can be better people.”

Rosa-Palermo is just one of many Oberlin athletes making the most out of a challenging situation. He is looking forward to resuming athletic activities while maintaining proper protocols to stay safe. 

As a part of the Oberlin community, we understand the risks and precautions necessary to allow us to be able to continue our passion for baseball,” Rosa-Palermo said. “I’m very proud of the initiative we’ve taken to ensure that we can continue our chase to become the best student athletes we can be. And I look forward to being able to be with my boys on the field — in whatever way possible.”

Appenheimer is looking forward to replicating competition in a safe, healthy way through digital means. 

“We’re going to virtually compete against teams across the nation and use cross country scoring to crown weekly champions,” Appenheimer said. “Over sixty schools have expressed interest in joining and we’re excited to see how it evolves. For student-athletes, competitions are the stage and the laboratory. After not having those experiences this fall we wanted to do something meaningful for not only our student-athletes but for student-athletes everywhere.”

From staying connected on Zoom to finding new ways of resuming athletic activities, Oberlin’s athletic teams are carrying on. Though the future may seem tumultuous, the bonds forged through these difficult times will help make these programs stronger going forward.