The Michigan softball team has faced its fair share of adversity this year.
Just 16 games into the 42-game season, the team has seen two COVID-19 induced pauses: an athletic department-wide two week pause that disrupted all practices and induced a quarantine back in January and February and another that delayed their first home game in almost two years this past weekend. The latter hiatus could prove all the more costly, coming at a time when the Wolverines were showing an upward trajectory after a sweep of Indiana in Bloomington.
How Michigan responds will say a lot about the team and its resolve, but considering its experience with pauses, the attitude is one of resilience.
“Well, we’ll see if they stay sharp, but we did the best we could with what we had,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “We were allowed to be in smaller groups. We did a lot of individual type of workouts, whether it’s individual hitting (or) a lot of fundamental drill work. It gave us a chance to get better.”
The Wolverines have been given less than ideal circumstances all season long and this past weekend has only been a continuation of that trend. Yet, they are just “plugging away,” as Hutchins puts it.
It’s important to remember, too, that they have been dealing with the obstacles posed by COVID-19 all year long. The team has been living in isolation for the promise that they would get to play through a softball season again. And now, with a second interruption, it’s fair to assume that the team would start to worry that all these efforts will be for naught, that the sacrifices will be made in vain.
But, that’s not the case.
“These athletes have to give up seeing their families, they can see them outside with a mask on,” Hutchins said. “They can’t go sit and have Easter dinner. They’re giving up a lot to get this, and we have to remind them that you can’t take a day off because COVID doesn’t take off. Everything’s an attitude.”
In the face of the adversarial conditions they can’t control, Hutchins has urged her team to simply focus on getting better on the field, and she doesn’t want to let these bumps in the road derail them from their goals, from an opportunity they didn’t get last year. The Wolverines are hopeful that they can bounce back from this latest pause stronger than before.
An attitude of resilience has gotten Michigan this far, through the ups and downs of the young season. But, whether that resilience will show itself in a tough bounce-back series against Ohio State this weekend, well, we’ll just have to wait and see.
But with the mental fortitude that Hutchins has instilled within her team, it certainly feels as if the Wolverines are prepared.
“It’s really how you approach life and, you know, I’m a big believer in all my 100 years of coaching that the most important thing we do is we teach the lessons of life,” Hutchins said. “And COVID is teaching us some really hard lessons. … it’s just a matter of how they respond to their perceived adversity and, you know, we only give ’em one choice.”