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What Goes On When the Clock Runs Out?

by Alex Boyce

Five months of seeing the same faces everyday, whether it be out on the court or in the pool, Montclair State University’s athletes endure grueling practices, sometimes multiple times a day, all while sharing blood, sweat and tears with teammates and coaches that are cherished like family members. But what happens when the crowd dies down as the season comes to an end for these athletes?

Montclair States’ 2023-24 winter athletic season had gone by in a flash and while multiple sports competed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament (NJAC), the athletes have proven time and time again that the Red Hawks are not to be messed with as men’s basketball had gone on to semifinals, and the women’s swimming and dive team had crushed multiple school records placing third overall in the conference.

Montclair State's record breaking 800 meter freestyle relay team. Madison Franke | The Montclarion

Montclair State's record-breaking 800-meter freestyle relay team. Madison Franke | The Montclarion

Once all had been left out on the court or in the pool, it was time to hang up the swim caps and jerseys for another six months until they could do it all over again. In the meantime, the athletes themselves have to figure out what their own lives will look like without the aid of scheduled practices and games taking up the majority of their days.

“[It is] definitely a big adjustment,” Amir Williams, a senior men’s basketball player said. “Waking up, being sore and just being tired. You kind of miss that once the season’s over.”

His fellow teammate, junior guard Mike Jackson, who was this season’s leading scorer for the Red Hawks, would agree when talking about the impact their schedule had.

“It’s devastating that we’re not in a gym practicing for another game,” Jackson said. “But we still got the off-season to work out, get some shots up, work on your craft.”

The off-season training is what seems to get the ball rolling again for anyone who misses the feeling of working hard and having a routine.

“Just get in the gym first and then plan out your day,” Jackson said.

Not only does the training help figure out a new schedule to set in place, but that competitive fire to push further can be great when teammates are around to drive each other to greatness.

“I don’t love working out alone, and I definitely wouldn’t get myself in the pool or follow it like a practice if I was alone,” Julie Tiedemann said, a junior on the Montclair State women’s swim team. “We are all in contact, you go from seeing these people every single day for hours, training with these people, to not seeing them. So, we definitely go out of our way to make sure we can work out together.”

There’s a strong link between the mentality in-season, tied to training in the off-season. Athletes such as junior Sergio Restrepo, from the Montclair State men’s diving team, bring a piece of this pre-dive ritual into his weightlifting routine by using a song that fuels his fire, claiming it adds a little bit of luck to earning high scoring dives.

Sophomore Sergio Restrepo at the TCNJ Invitational. Olivia Salmons | The Montclarion

Sophomore Sergio Restrepo at the TCNJ Invitational. Olivia Salmons | The Montclarion

“‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ by Blue Oyster Cult, that one just clicks for me,” Restrepo said. “I would put that song on before the workout starts, and think about how it’s gonna be and then go and do it.”

The cards start to fall back into place for some like Restrepo, who is able to reconnect with a passion outside of diving at Montclair State. He is an avid combat sports enthusiast, picking up gloves in boxing as well as entering a new atmosphere in Jiu Jitsu.

“How diving is on my mind during the season, [fighting] is on my mind 24/7 now,” Restrepo said.

While having the time to find personal hobbies, and keeping in shape for the next game, there is no love lost between teammates. Instead they find time to be around each other just as they would after a tough practice, or long string of weekend games.

“After the season is where we can enjoy ourselves,” Willams said while speaking about his teammates. “We get a lift in and then let’s just go out, let’s go get something to eat, let’s just talk as the boys. You know, let’s play video games all night because you don’t have practice in the morning.”

All of the hours working together and learning from each other does not go down the drain once the clock resets at the end of the season for Montclair State athletes. The sense of family that is expressed during competition flows straight through to the next season.

“The bond definitely doesn’t get weaker,” Restrepo said. “I think it’s the same. It’s like not seeing your close friend for a while. Like they’re away at college and then you come back and it’s like they never left. It’s like that.”

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