What’s it like to play with masks?

By Taylor Viles – Sports Editor

A men’s lacrosse helmet sits on Grellier Field displaying the inserted mask that all players are required to wear.
Photo by Taylor Viles

Creating a safe atmosphere for sports to return to play this spring was arduous. Regulations had to be agreed upon by all competing Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) schools and multiple sacrifices were endured.

One of the non-negotiables set forth by the GNAC was to require student-athletes to wear masks before, during and after a competition. The 1851 Chronicle spoke with many Lasers about the effects playing with a mask has had on them this spring.

“Obviously breathing is a really big thing, especially when you’re running,” said junior women’s lacrosse player Sophia Gadsden. “I had never played 100 percent with a mask on until…we started to play in the fall, so it was definitely an adjustment.”

First-year softball player Ally Kirck agreed with Gadsden. “You have to control your breathing a lot more because of the blockage.”

As time has gone on, adjusting to the breathing and pacing themselves has become easier. “It takes like a good week to really control your breathing,” said Gadsden.

In a recent match against Rivier University, Gadsden wasn’t prepared for when it began to rain. The precipitation practically turned her mask into a self-destructing weapon. “It felt like I was getting waterboarded,” she said. She now carries multiple masks to a game in case she needs to change into a new one during a timeout in play.

Junior Matt Motyka has experienced both positives and negatives while competing with a mask on the baseball field. “I like it the best when I pitch,” said Motyka. “[The mask] kind of keeps me within myself. That’s really all I have on the mound.” The junior explained how he can have a conversation with himself on the diamond with no one else knowing, positively affecting his gameplay. Conversely, “when I’m hitting it affects me the most because…it can ride up,” he said. “Sometimes it gets into my eye.”

Junior men’s lacrosse goalie Alex Beauchemin has also dealt with vision issues due to the mask. “You can’t really look down like you could before,” he said. “Ground balls, or in my case low shots, are hard to see.” Even with these challenges, Beauchemin finished the regular season second in the GNAC in goals-against average (8.81), save percentage (60.3) and saves (126).

The men’s lacrosse team has a different situation than any other spring team because of their helmets. The athletic center purchased special masks to insert right into the facemasks. These masks are also thick explained Beauchemin, making the breathing adjustment much harder.

Contrary to the goalie’s current complaints, his head coach says that his team has never made an excuse when it comes to practice and gameplay. “I never hear, ‘this is affecting me,’ which I think is really cool and a testament to our team,” said Bill Mason. “But from a standpoint of our stamina and the way we fatigue in a game this year versus years prior with no mask, I don’t think I notice a difference at all.”

Whatever shortcomings exist of wearing a mask, most athletes can agree on one thing: “If this is the only way we can play, then I’m perfectly fine with it,” said Gadsden.

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