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Penn men's soccer junior and captain Isaac McGinnis knew he needed an alternative way to find motivation during a pandemic, and pickup games with his fellow Quakers are the solution.

Credit: Son Nguyen

For most of us, the past five months trapped at home has given us a unique opportunity to be productive — the unfortunate reality is that finding the motivation to do so is much easier said than done. For some Penn athletes, this has been a time to lock in and focus on the task at hand: the next season, whenever it may be.

A few days before Penn officially closed its doors last March, spring athletes were notified that their seasons were over. And while most students and faculty were focused on navigating unprecedented online academics, many student athletes found themselves wondering how COVID-19 would affect their sports world.

Initially, most didn’t think much of it. Many Penn athletes, such as senior and women's soccer captain Chase Geffert, assumed that they would be back to regular training after a few weeks — no one had considered the possibility that fall sports would be canceled.

“When that first happened we didn’t think anything about the fall, the fall was so far in the distance,” she said.

Geffert, like many others, waited for the typical business-as-usual offseason to begin. As quarantine regulations became more serious, however, Penn athletes quickly found out that they would have to begin individual training to prepare for their uncertain future seasons.

Without the typical organized summer soccer leagues, athletes had to further focus their attention on offseason strength and conditioning routines. Whether it was lifting or running, fitness was the only thing athletes could work on. Finding the motivation to work on the more mundane aspect of sports became of utmost importance. 

For Geffert and her teammates, that motivation comes from keeping an eye towards the future. 

"As far as we’re concerned, we’re playing in the spring," Geffert said. "If you don’t plan like that, it's hard to stay focused and stay motivated."

Isaac McGinnis, a junior captain of the men’s soccer team, shared a similar sentiment. 

“We had in our mind that we’d be playing, so we were training as if it was business as usual," he said. "That was the biggest factor [for staying motivated].”

Fortunately, he and his team have been able to get some in-person soccer practice. Without any school-sanctioned activities, McGinnis and his teammates formed an impromptu squad of Penn men’s soccer players to play organized games around the Philadelphia area. Although they seem to have finally found a sense of normalcy in today’s chaotic world, Penn’s official soccer season still remains up in the air. 

“I feel we would have been really prepared for a fall season if we had it,” McGinnis said.

With the uncertainty surrounding the fall season this past summer, both McGinnis and Geffert wanted to make sure they were focused on the training and conditioning task at hand. But with both of their respective seasons now pushed again, they must find new motivating factors.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Geffert often found herself wondering what all her training efforts were building towards. With little information to go for the spring, she’s found a new drive to help her navigate through the ups and downs of the coronavirus sports world.

The senior captain cites simply being in Philadelphia as a new motivator. Before the start of this academic year, Geffert’s home life in California isolated her from her usual soccer environment.

“Working out in Philly just kind of reminds me of playing soccer and being in soccer season,” she said. “And even though we’re not working out together, we’re all kind of in the same area so that’s helped keep me motivated too.”

McGinnis also realized that being in an organized team environment surrounded by those with similar goals pushes him to train harder. And it’s not just because he’s now surrounded by a coaching staff.

“We’ve always said that it’s more important when [the motivation] comes from the players themselves," he said. "If you’ve got teammates that are around you, that are pushing themselves and pushing you, that just brings up the [energy] level even more.”

When asked what piece of advice they’d offer to those trying to stay in shape at home, Geffert and McGinnis had a similar answer. 

“Stick to a good routine and plan and follow it," McGinnis said.

Having finally settled into training routines in Philadelphia, Geffert and McGinnis look to the future — to a time when COVID-19 has regressed, to when their seasons are in full swing. It might not be soon, but they know that they’ll be ready.