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'There's really never downtime': Fall sport athletes share insight on off season life

February 2, 2023
Photo by Madison Echlin | The State News

In collegiate athletics, the end of the season can bring fan celebrations, bowl victories and championship trophies. It can also bring heartache or a sigh of relief signifying the end of a disappointing year

No matter the final results or a team’s overall record, the work continues for student athletes – It’s the start of the off season training. 

Ending their season with a loss in the Big Ten Tournament on Nov. 4, men’s soccer midfielder and engineering freshman Jack Guggemos and his teammates are almost three months into the off season. The team reunited after break for the start of spring practice

The Okemos native started playing soccer as a young kid after his parents introduced him to the sport. Guggemos started five games for the Spartans during the 2022 season, appearing in 15 while putting up two goals and an assist

In the off season, an average day for Guggemos includes attending classes, completing homework, going to practice and seeking treatment

“We’re not traveling at all, so I definitely have more free time if it’s maybe wanting to hang out with friends or watch a movie here and there,” Guggemos said. “In the fall, we'd be traveling and we'd have a bus ride to Penn State and that's, I don’t know, eight hours, and or we'd be flying somewhere and obviously that takes up a good amount of time.” 

Field hockey forward and kinesiology freshman Gracie Burns started playing the sport in seventh grade. Attending a camp at Michigan State the next year sparked her love for the school. Burns grew up about an hour from campus and wanted to stay close to her family, furthering her decision to come to MSU.

In her first season, Burns played in 17 games and made two starts, finishing the year with one goal and a shot attempt. Field hockey played its last game of the 2022 season on Oct. 30, a 3-1 win over Kent State.

“Our off season is in the spring,” Burns said. “Compared to fall, I have a lot more flexibility with my time. It's not so fast speed anymore, and it's actually a lot slower, which is quite nice,” And it's nice being able to focus on my academics, more so than just always field hockey.” 

During off season training, Burns said the field hockey team focuses on technical skills, conditioning and fundamentals.

“We do a lot of basic things just to get us to back up into gear, which kind of sounds silly, but you know, you need a good foundation,” Burns said. “Compared to the fall, we do a lot more team play, I guess we could say activities where it's like tactical and it's more about what's this next play going to be? And then in the spring, it's about more like conditioning and hard lifting.” 

As soccer and field hockey are both fall semester sports, Guggemos and Burns utilized their extra time by adding additional credits to their spring schedules

“It's been really nice being able to put the student into student athlete for the spring more … because in the fall I feel like it's always super rushed,” Burns said. “I'm doing a lot better right now with my spring classes than I did in the fall, where I felt like I had no time to do .” 

More availability to focus on school also allows Guggemos to take more challenging classes this semester than he did in the fall

“I know I'll have more time on weekends and weekdays to study and make sure I'm ready for any tests or projects that I know I'm gonna have,” Guggemos said

In her free time, Burns looks forward to one activity in particular

“I've been very into reading,” Burns said. “Not that I don't have time to do it in season because we're always on the bus, but I feel like everything, all my downtime is spent towards homework and whatever else I have for classes. So, I guess, being able to read a lot of books is really nice.” 

While the off season comes with more time for school work and social life, athletes are still expected to train regularly in preparation for the upcoming year. 

“There's really never downtime,” Burns said. “I think a lot of people think it's always sunshine and rainbows, where we just get to play field hockey, or like, do whatever, and have whatever time we have, but it's literally practice, then class and study hall and rehab if you need it, and then practice again and conditioning … It's just all the time, constant.” 

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