By Page Brown, Contributing Writer
UMF Senior Mckenna Brodeur chases down a ball during a soccer game against the University of Southern Maine.
University of Maine at Farmington student-athletes have returned to the field this year after a full season of Covid-related adjustments. A lack of competition and team interactions coupled with regular testing and mask-wearing took a toll on the mental health of many athletes, who traditionally pride themselves on strength and perseverance. Pushing through a tough practice or game is championed by advertisers, coaches, parents, and society as a whole. Yet, in the post-pandemic world- this narrative has shifted as student-athletes dismantle the warrior mentality and open up about mental health struggles.
The pandemic placed athletes in a vulnerable state, removed from their traditional routine. Researchers at the National Collegiate Athletic Association found that the rates of reported mental health concerns in the fall of 2020 were 1.5 to two times higher than in previous studies.
The increase in reported struggles comes as no surprise to UMF Interim Athletic Director Jamie Beaudoin. “For fifteen years they have had this routine, and COVID has interrupted their routine,” Beaudoin said. “And even though we were able to find ways for teams to practice and compete, it wasn’t what it used to be. This added to student-athletes anxiety as it isn’t what they are used to.”
UMF men’s soccer head coach Blake Hart said he’s seen noticeable shifts in team wellbeing, with players appearing unwilling to practice, nerves surrounding COVID, and poor team chemistry. “As a coach, it was hard to try and lead a team, but more so to watch players not enjoying a pivotal piece in their everyday life,” Hart said.
These struggles were also noticed by women’s soccer player McKenna Brodeur and men’s golf team member Christopher Frey, both pointing towards the lack of team interaction and loss of athletics creating sentiments of anxiety and isolation. Both athletes believe there has been an influx of mental health concerns, and that raising awareness of it and being a supportive outlet for their teammates both mentally and physically is now prioritized. “We all know how fortunate we are to play and we’re enjoying each day together,” Brodeur said.
These comments point to a shift in athletics, with coaches and players alike recognizing the importance of keeping healthy both mentally and physically in order to perform at their full potential. The change in dialogue has been encouraged at UMF. During DIII week last April, UMF athletes attended yoga classes and informational workshops about the importance of resilience and stress management. Guest speakers such as Victoria Garrick, founder of The Hidden Opponent, visited UMF last spring and spoke against the perceived weakness around mental health. Garrick discussed how the lack of visibility paints a misleading portrait on the mental well-being of athletes, an aspect she reiterated in an interview with the New York Times. “I remember Googling and not being able to find anyone or athletes who made me feel less alone.”
Her organization creates the place she was searching for through advocacy programs that argue that being mentally tough is no longer hiding behind a facade of strength, rather it lies in checking in on teammates, speaking up when one is struggling, and advocating for others to do the same. Mental health resources are becoming more readily available and accessible for athletes, granting students a space to grapple with the widespread mental health crisis.
Yet, this is just the beginning of this cultural shift, with Beaudoin using a metaphor to describe the crossing point athletics is at, stating “COVID showed us a bit more of the iceberg. As a coach, I see the tip of the iceberg, but COVID lowered the water and made it so mental health is much more open and out in front of others.” Continuing to hold these conversations and creating spaces for athletes to discuss their mental health changes the paradigm from mental weakness back to strength.
By Emilee Eustis Staff Reporter
The crowd was buzzing with excitement under the beaming sun while waiting for the UMF men’s soccer team to take the field last Saturday morning.
UMF men’s soccer team huddled up and planing their next move on the field. (Photo courtesy of UMF Athletics)
It was the season opener, or first conference game, for the Beavers and they were facing one of their rivals, the Mariners of Maine Maritime Academy (MMA). “We knew it was going to be a fight for 90 minutes and that this game goes a long way towards playoff standings at the end of the season,” said Tristan Price, a senior athlete at UMF. “Everyone was really excited and looking forward to the game.”
The Beavers spent two practices preparing for the challenge and focused on capitalizing on every chance they had. “We always talk about coming out of the kickoff strong and putting the other team under pressure immediately and we were able to do that,” said Price. After scoring their first goal within minutes of the game, the team was focused on not letting the Mariners offensive push take away their quick lead.
The Beavers showed a strong defensive effort, keeping the Mariners at one goal until the last seven minutes of the half when Matt Caron of MMA scored on a penalty goal. The momentum swung in the Mariners favor, and with a tied score at halftime, the Beavers were prepared for an intense start of the second half.
“[At halftime] we talked about getting the ball more wide to create more chances,” said Michael Pingree, another captain and senior athlete at UMF. “We wanted to work smarter off the ball.”
The second half started out at a fast pace with both teams focused on an offensive push. At the 25-minute mark, the Mariners used that energy to get another goal, again by Caron, putting them ahead 2 to 1.
“I think their goal in the second half kind of changed everything,” said Price. “We started throwing guys forward trying to score and we abandoned our game plan towards the end.”
In an effort to get the game back in their hands, the Beavers worked extremely hard to keep the ball on our end of the field. “With about 15 minutes left, we missed a good opportunity on net that helped shift momentum our way,” said Pingree. “From that point on we got some dangerous balls in and created many good opportunities to even the score.”
With seconds left, they had one last chance to tie the game. “Time was running down and the urgency to score was full throttle,” said Pingree. The ball reached Jake Heimlich, a Junior at UMF, and flew into the back of the net as the time ran out. The team “plead” for a penalty as one of their players was on the ground, but the referee did not agree.
The final score was 2 to 1 in favor of the Mariners, but the outcome did not discourage the Beavers. “We work extremely hard every day,” said Pingree. “We’re just looking to stay disciplined in our overall game plan, and that will make us really hard to beat.”
By Marissa Chamberlain, Contributing Writer
Seniors of the 2017 UMF Baseball Team (Courtesy of UMF Athletics)
The sun was peering out from behind the clouds, and the weather seemed perfect for the UMF Baseball team’s debut game at Hippach Field this season. The Beavers came out to an impressive crowd for a Tuesday afternoon, sporting their new striped jerseys and ready to take on Husson University Eagles for a conference doubleheader.
“Having played twenty-one road games and having no outside practices,” said Head Coach Chris Bessey, “it felt phenomenal to get on Hippach and play…in front of home fans was great and I think reenergizing to our players for the stretch run of the season.”
The Eagles came out attacking in the second inning earning their first run. It didn’t take long for the Beavers to answer back. Shortstop Jimmy Parks hit a single to get the team going. Up next was senior first baseman Mark Leahy, who crushed a double, sending Parks around second, where he lost his helmet. The intensity of the stadium rose as Parks came around third; he was going all the way. He dove head first into home plate, just barely beating the catcher’s tag. Parks emerged from the daring play to his teammates swarming him off the bench.
By the fourth inning, the weather started to take a turn for the worse as the rain began to fall. As the field became more wet, the Beaver’s bats became dry. The team would go on to record only one more hit that game. Despite the strong defensive showing by the team and freshman pitcher Justin Rodrigue, the Eagles proved to be a threat at the plate in the first game with nine hits and the 5-1 win.
With a quick half hour break in between games, the team didn’t get much time to shake off a loss. “In between games, we just mentally prepared,” said center fielder Tyler Flayhan, “and talked about trying to grind out our at-bats and put more runs up in the next game.”
Among the fans in the crowd was Eric Aguiar, a member of the UMF golf team. He has attended three games this season. “It’s difficult this year to go to a lot of games because of the heavy winter and the late melting of the snow,” said Aguiar, referring to the fact that until this game, the Beavers played all home games at Husson due to the conditions of Hippach Field.
“I enjoy watching the team because I hang out with a lot of the guys that play,” said Aguiar, “so it’s fun to go out and support the Beavs.”
UMF struggled finding their rhythm at the plate early in the second game, while Husson sent home three runs in the third inning. The Beavers battled back though, matching the score in the fourth inning. Husson came back with two scores in the following inning, leaving the teams with final score of 5-3. UMF improved their hits to seven.
“Losses are never fun,” said Flayhan, “but with such a busy schedule, we have to flush it and move on to the next games and focus on those games.” Flayhan wasn’t exaggerating about their busy schedule. The team went on to play an additional four doubleheaders that week.
The Beavers’ record fell to 3-20, while the Eagles improved to 20-14. “Out of our 20 losses, 15 have been by 3 runs or less, which can be frustrating on everyone,” said Bessey. “The job is to learn from every situation and get better from it, make the adjustment to succeed, not dwell on the failures.”
“I’d say that we just need to find a way to get the bats rolling some more, but our pitching and defense has been pretty solid all year,” said Flayhan. “Once the hitting comes around, we will be all set.”
By Sarita Crandall & Marissa Chamberlain, Contributing Writers
Senior members of the 2017 UMF Women’s Lacrosse Team. (Photo Courtesy of Patty Smith)
It was looking like it was going to be a beautiful spring afternoon to play a game of lacrosse, but despite the ominous weather that grew over the field at Thomas College, the Women’s Lacrosse team never gave up and defeated Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) with a final score of 10-1. The rain added a dramatic component to the game, which was considered a home game for the Beavers despite the necessity of an alternative venue due to the conditions of Prescott Field.
As the Beavers warmed up before the game, Coach Beth Lebel, who is in her first year as head coach of UMF lacrosse, noted that this was going to be a game that they needed to compete. “MMA is going to battle, they’re physical, they’re fast and athletic, but we are too. If we can just connect our passes and transitions, then I think we should compete fairly well,” said Lebel.
Carly Raymond, a key player for the Beavers, said that on game days it’s an adrenaline rush. “I can’t focus in school, can’t sleep the night before,” Raymond said enthusiastically, “It’s all nerves and excitement!”
At the blow of the whistle to signal the start of the game the intensity was there for both teams, but UMF was more in control of the field and scored a goal in the first three minutes. The first goal was scored by Danielle Conway and assisted by Raymond.
UMF Women’s Lacrosse players warm up for their game. (Photo Courtesy of Patty Smith)
It didn’t stop there for UMF. They continued to send four more goals into the net by the end of the first half. MMA was becoming discouraged by the control, composure, and finesse that our Lady Beavers were showing during the game. Some MMA players were becoming aggressive and unsportsmanlike out of frustration. Raymond mentioned that many teams are aggressive on the field and can get out of hand if the refs don’t set them straight. “Our team keeps our heads on our shoulders and fights through, we rarely fall to their level of checking and pushing,” Raymond stated proudly, “UMF in general has great sportsmanship!”
Sportsmanship and work ethic are two traits the Women’s Lacrosse team represents very well for UMF. The Beavers goal as a team was to have a positive team culture, and this was evident in practice the night prior to their game against MMA.
With a winter that seemed to last forever and piles of snow speckled with dirt still covering the UMF campus, many spring athletic teams can be found practicing anywhere they can find dry ground. A line of lacrosse sticks and equipment tucked behind the sidelines and a cluster of athletes with UMF maroon shorts and Beaver lacrosse tanks came into view when walking into the last two courts. Coach Lebel practiced her behind the head shot while the team warmed up. The first shot flew wide and landed a couple of laughs from her team. “Practice makes perfect!” she yelled. This seems to be the motto the Women’s Lacrosse team goes by.
After going for a two lap warm up run, the team came back to the court to complete their routine dynamic stretching, strength exercises, and basic skills. The team’s personality can be described as encouraging, lighthearted and supportive, all while having a competitive, intense edge. “They’re fun to be around,” said Lebel, “and they also know when it’s time to put their game faces on and work for everything.”
The 2017 UMF Women’s Lacrosse Team. (Photo Courtesy of Patty Smith)
The team had just come off of a couple of losses over the weekend at New England College and Castleton ending a four game winning streak, but these athletes did not come to practice that Tuesday to dwell on those losses; they came to work and prepare for their next conference matchup against the MMA Mariners.
Despite the adversities caused by a Maine winter and being a young, fairly inexperienced varsity team, the Beavers have had a successful season so far with a record of 5-3. Coach Lebel doesn’t look at having players who are new to the sport as a hardship though. She explained that newcomers make positive contributions including work ethic and excitement to learn and get better at the sport.
Some of the success of the rookies definitely comes from support from the more seasoned players. Rhi Jackson, one of five seniors on the team, attributes this to a lot of team bonding and Coach Lebel’s “Big Beavs and Little Beavs” idea. Lebel paired each upperclassman with an underclassman. The “team buddies” give each other gifts and pump each other up before games.
Looking towards the future of UMF Women’s Lacrosse, Lebel hopes to expand the program further. “We will continue to take players who haven’t played before and those with limited high school experience, along with veteran high school and club lacrosse players,” said Lebel. “Girls’ lacrosse in Maine is expanding rapidly and I’m looking forward to continuing to grow the game with my team and program.”
Needless to say, their hard work did not go to waste. The Beavers came out even stronger in the second half of their recent matchup against MMA, scoring five more goals to assure them the win. Whenever a goal was scored there seemed to be a new energy on the field for UMF. For Raymond when she scores—during the game she acquired two goals—it’s a sigh of relief. “All the work to get to the net finally paid off!” The next game for the Beavers will be their Senior Game, Saturday, April 22 at 7 p.m. at Thomas.
By Lakota Monzo, Contributing Writer
UMF students help to find a match for USM soccer player Ally Little. (Photo Courtesy of Twitter)
The UMF Women’s soccer team hosted a successful Bone Marrow Registry drive in the Olsen Student Center last week to support USM soccer player Ally Little.
Little is a student at University of Southern Maine (USM) who has been diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. “We hope to find a match to our fellow soccer player, Ally,” said soccer team member Lydia Roy.
The UMF women’s soccer team plays USM during their non-conference season. “When we heard about Ally’s situation we wanted to help in any way that we could,” said soccer team member Sophie Manning. After hearing that USM’s drive went well, the team wanted to see if they could do the same at UMF.
“There’s a lot of prep work for this event,” said Roy. To get ready for the event the team promoted the drive during lunch hours, and also handed out flyers around campus.
“All of this preparation is time consuming,” said Roy, “and there is a lot of uncertainty involved.” She hopes that the end results will make everything worth it though.
One of the biggest hurdles the team faced was informing everyone how the drive actually works. “Many people hear the words bone marrow drive and they immediately think about huge needles being stuck in them,” said Manning, “this, however, is the old way, and is only really used for about 20% of the procedures nowadays.”
The process takes about ten to fifteen minutes, in which paperwork is filled out then the inside of the cheek is swabbed. After that the person becomes apart of the registry and has the chance to save a life if they match with someone.
“The team is hoping to get anywhere from 100 to 200 people to join the registry,” said Manning. Tallies following the drive confirm that the team met their goal with a total of 139 participants.
The soccer team was at the event all day helping out in any way they could and answering questions that had come up.
The biggest point the UMF women’s soccer team is trying to get across is for people to join the national registry. This will help people who need a bone marrow transplant to find their matches.
Anyone who missed the drive but is interested in joining the Bone Marrow Registry to potentially become a donor can visit bethematch.org for more information.