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Backyard Sports 2020: How to fill the sports-sized hole in your life

As the social distancing guidelines continue to roll out on what seems like a daily basis, this past week saw the closing of 80 basketball courts in New York City. It was becoming evident to NYC officials and Mayor De Blasio that pretty much nothing, not even a global pandemic, could stop the young ballers of the city from having social gatherings in which everyone was closer than 6-feet apart. The one thing that could stop them, however, was removing the actual basketball hoop from the ground for the time being. What a sad sight to see at Rucker Park, a legendary court in Harlem, hoopless and void of the ever-soothing bounce of a ball on the concrete. It is in these trying times though, that athletes need to find refuge in playing sports by themselves more than anything else right now. 

The countless social media challenges provide some solace as pro athletes and celebrities set up indoor three point contests or golf trick shots to provide us with 30-60 seconds of fun distractions. The reality, though, of having competition removed from our lives so abruptly especially for athletes, leaves a pretty large hole in the psyche of a competitor.  Some athletes are turning to video games like NBA2k or Madden, because it is at least some form of sports, although it’s extremely passive. That being said, we all know that it’s important to stay active and get out of the house, as long as you’re practicing good habits of social distancing. 

Athletes, here are some ways to keep your competitive edge, stay sane, and have some fun while stuck in isolation. Basketball is easy, all you need is a ball and a hoop, but there are ways to entertain yourself in other sports too!

  • Play 1v1 versus your favorite basketball player: This is a drill I learned at a very young age, probably 8 or 9 years old, that is a great way to motivate yourself to play at game speed when there is nobody else around to play with or push you (or because of social distancing). The rules are simple: Pick a player (for me it was and is always Kobe Bryant), work on game speed moves (dribble combos, post footwork, difficult shots), but don’t miss! For every shot you make you get 1 point, but for every shot you miss Kobe gets 2 points. Play to 21 and see how well you can do! Disclaimer: I have only ever beaten Kobe a handful of times, which is likely much better than I ever would have done against him in real life 1v1. Rest in peace Mamba. – Matt Palacio, Gettysburg College Basketball ‘19
  • Baseball players: While it can be tough to get real work in without a batting cage or throwing partner, there are still ways to work on hand-eye coordination and baseball IQ from the comfort of your own home. 
    • Throw a tennis ball up the stairs, as it’s bouncing down, try to get in position and ‘frame’ the pitch. Spin the ball different ways to get different pitches, and try calling your own game as the catcher and keep score in your head. 
    • If you are fortunate enough to have a net or access to a batting cage, ‘grade’ your hits based on the type of swing you had. Play a game against an imaginary team and keep track of where your hits are going, whether they would be outs or not, and work on directional hitting. – Jack Weiller, UVA Baseball ‘19
  • Lacrosse Players: Find a wall and get on it, as often as possible. If you have a net, work on accuracy and shot location by taping targets onto different spots. Before you finish playing, try hitting the crossbar 5 times in a row. Don’t let yourself give up until you’ve done it, and then raise the number as you get better at it. – Vince Foti, Bridgewater College Lacrosse ‘19
  • Soccer players: Grab a ball and juggle. See how many you can get in a row, add obstacles like walls or place things on the ground to make it more difficult. Create a juggling routine and perfect it, use every part of your body to keep the ball off the ground, etc. If you have someone to pass the ball to you: work on receiving passes and back to pressure turns, make 10 shots in a row with both feet. -Kirsten Gibson, McDaniel Women’s Soccer ‘19

We hope these ideas find everyone well! Stay healthy, happy, and active and feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments!

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