At SUNY Oswego there are many men’s and women’s sports teams where students can compete in the NCAA Division III athletics such as Ice Hockey, Volleyball, Soccer, Tennis, and Softball. Despite the COVID Pandemic, some college sporting events are still being held Softball, Baseball, and Tennis. The Oswego Softball team had their first game of the Spring 2021 Season on Monday March 22, 2021. They played against the RIT Tigers at Tiger Stadium in Rochester, New York. We were able to interview the head coach of the Oswego’s Softball Team Gabrielle Rivers.
Rivers started as head coach for Oswego in the summer of 2019. She was born and raised in Syracuse, New York, and went to West Genesee High School. She attended the Division II Merrimack College her freshman year where and then transferred to Brockport College. She played softball all four years. She then became an assistant coach at the NCAA Division II college at Le Moyne where she spent four years coaching for their softball team. Under her leadership, Le Moyne College made four-straight appearances at the Northeast-10 Conference Championship. 2021 is Rivers second year coaching at Oswego. Rivers has a Bachelor of Science Degree in journalism and broadcasting from Brockport and she had minored in coaching. She earned a Master of Science degree in Sports Management from the Southern New Hampshire University in March of 2018. When asked about why she picked softball for coaching Rivers said, “Softball was always the main sport I played in a travel team growing up as well as little league, I also played basketball and tennis but softball was always my main sport so that was the one I focused on.” River’s coaching style is more of a defensive heavy coach doing defensive drills for the players, but also a laid-back styled coach where she does not yell at the players, like what you would see in football. From a teaching standpoint she believes that repetitiveness with drills will help more in game situations.
With the start of COVID-19 in January of 2020 the Oswego softball games were all cancelled just before the 2020 Season was going to start. COVID-19 had shut everything down from sporting events to even practice as well. When COVID first started to spread the majority of colleges, gyms, and community places were closed down so it made it difficult for players to practice and train through the Spring and Fall semesters of 2020. The athletic buildings were also shut down on campus which made it hard for anyone to train, practice, or generally workout alone or practice for sports. When asked about the softball players and their training during COVID, Rivers responded, “It was certainly an obstacle that the players had to overcome, since we’ve been back [Spring of 2021 semester] they worked really hard but definitely an obstacle that was in the way for all of them.” With softball in particular the student athletes did have the choice to opt out of the 2021 season due to COVID.
Preparing for a softball game ultimately depends on the opponent and what the team has to work on. To prepare for their first game of the season on Monday March 22nd, they did pregame workouts and exercises. Then worked on what they needed to accomplish leading up to a game since a majority of the players had not played a softball game in over a year, due to COVID. Normally the pitchers practice their throws at least three times leading up to a game, they get hitting and defense practice in, they make sure all the bases are covered. In a normal year there would have been softball tryouts during the fall, but with COVID everything was different, so they had to limit the number of people they brought on the team. This year they kept everyone from the previous team. Students are usually extended to train and workout off season, but nothing is mandatory this year since coaches cannot make the students do the workouts or train. It is up to the students to be held accountable for training with defensive and offensive, pitching and hitting, and working out
One of Rivers most successful moments as an assistant coach was at Le Moyne, “Watching and helping the team go from a 10-game losing streak to a 12-game winning streak… You can see the momentum change in the season and you can see them [student athletes] becoming better people on and off the field in those times.”