For student-athletes, being a part of an athletic team often means being a part of a second family, especially at Kenyon. While keeping health and safety in mind, some Lords and Ladies have found a way to combat their separation anxiety: Instead of staying home with their families while they study online this fall, some groups of athletes have decided to rent apartments or houses together. Sports teams eat, study, train and sometimes even live together. Being separated from such a close-knit support system, the student-athletes say, has been stressful, especially in the middle of a pandemic that already adds so much anxiety to daily life.
There are a variety of sports “hype houses” spread across the country. There is a swimming and diving group in North Carolina, along with men’s lacrosse in South Carolina and Colorado, women’s lacrosse in South Carolina and Columbus and men’s baseball in Columbus. There is also a group of lacrosse Lords that are taking a road trip across the western part of the US.
Darien Byrum ’22 has been living with some of her soccer teammates — Olivia Dion ’22, Fiona Dunn ’22 and Thaise Sudano ’22 — in Utah this semester. Before moving in together, Byrum said that they made sure to get tested for COVID-19. “We thought that was common sense at this time,” she said.
Ian McInturf ’22, who is deferring this fall, has also been living with one of his soccer teammates, Luke Muther ’22. The pair, along with one of Muther’s friends from home, have been staying in New Hampshire in an effort to stay close as teammates, while also living out the pandemic safely. “We have a very solid setup on a lake,” McInturf said. “[There are] plenty of outdoor activities to keep us entertained … We are able to stay away from COVID hotspots in this little, remote lake town.”
Both Byrum and McInturf mention they have faced challenges trying to train off the Hill. For Byrum, the main difficulty is that no one in her group has any equipment. “We weren’t able to take any soccer stuff in our bags before leaving,” she says. “So we have been running, hiking and cross-training to stay in shape.”
Similarly, McInturf has found that finding space to train is the most complicated piece. High school fields in the area are currently closed to non-students. Instead of practicing on the field, he and Muther have also turned to cross-training, focusing on cardio and bodyweight or resistance band workouts “while kicking a ball around here and there.” The two will have a significant period of time before they play for Kenyon next fall and plan to “ramp up the soccer-specific training more and more as we get closer to that time.”
So far, Byrum has been enjoying living with her teammates. “It has been really fun, and we’ve been able to help each other with time management.”
McInturf feels similarly to Byrum. “It’s honestly been great,” he said. “We both share similar priorities in how we spend our days and [we] both like to get out and be active. … It really helps living with people like that when it can sometimes be hard to motivate yourself to get off the couch when nobody else is around.”
McInturf has taken advantage of his leave of absence to work remotely for a physical therapy technology start-up. “[My job] helps me make enough money to get by living here,” he said, “while [also allowing me to] continue meaningful learning, just in a different environment.”