Social Distancing on the Field: A Q&A with Student-Athlete Miya Denison (COM’21)

Virginia native Miya Denison (COM’21) would have never thought her final season with the Boston University’s field hockey team would be in empty stadiums and socially distanced locker rooms. In a year filled with masks, hand sanitizers, and Zoom links, Denison explains how COVID-19 has impacted her life as a student-athlete. 

Michelle Alberini: What drew you to field hockey, and why did you decide to play for Boston University? 

I actually grew up playing a lot of individual sports, but once I started playing field hockey, I knew there was no turning back. At first, I started playing mostly because of my friends, but I ended up liking it so much I wanted to take it to the next level. 

I already knew I wanted to go to college in New England, but I immediately fell in love with the city of Boston, BU’s campus, and the team that had warmly welcomed me. I was only a sophomore when I committed to BU, and I am glad I made the right decision at such a young age. I really couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else or with anyone else. 

How did you react when BU first announced that the 2020 Spring semester was going to be remote? How did it feel not to be able to practice because of the COVID-19 limitations?   

I was at home for spring break when COVID-19 started becoming a public health concern. Back then, I only thought our vacation would’ve been prolonged by a couple of weeks. I was obviously very upset when I found out I wouldn’t be able to come back to school and spend time with my team. For field hockey, spring is a time to get stronger, fitter, and to grow closer as a team. It was disappointing to miss out on that opportunity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected every aspect of life. How has your experience as a student-athlete changed since the pandemic’s onset? 

I always search for a silver lining, and quarantine was a true resetting moment for me. The psychological and physical commitment playing a Division 1 sport required was leading me to feel a bit burned out. Quarantining and not being able to play field hockey allowed me to reset, fall in love with the sport again, and come back to school with a fresh mindset. 

My experience as a whole, though, hasn’t really changed. We have to play with masks on, which was weird at first, but I’m getting used to it. It’s definitely testing my fitness. We also couldn’t practice as a team until a couple of weeks ago. At first, we could only train with our roommates. It’s different, but being able to play makes it all worth it. 

Boston University was one of the few schools to adopt the LfA model and allow student-athletes to resume activity. What was the most challenging adjustment you had to make to continue playing field hockey? 

Every student at BU has to follow a pretty rigorous COVID-19 testing schedule. It’s not difficult to schedule an appointment, but I sometimes struggle to find time for it. The biggest adjustment I had to make was not being able to practice as a team. The whole point of a team sport is collaborating with other girls on and off the field. The pandemic has individualized and changed the sport. 

Although your senior season was postponed and not canceled, how do you feel about playing your last season with all the COVID-19 limitations? 

This is going to be a tough year. We can’t have fans, even if we play in outside arenas, and my parents, my biggest cheerleaders, can’t see me play. Not having them there, ready to hug me after a loss, is going to be the hardest part. Nonetheless, I’m excited I’ll get to have some normalcy, play my season, and wrap up my four years at BU. 

What new skills and tools have you acquired during your last year as a student-athlete playing in the midst of a pandemic?

The theme on our team has been “adaptation.” Obviously, this year hasn’t been perfect in any way. But, in and out of the field, I’ve learned how to adapt. I think it’s a great life skill the pandemic has taught to all of us. 

Do you have any tips for incoming student-athletes? 

Yes! First, remind yourself that this is not how things usually are. Also, try to connect with your teammates. Social media can be handy to stay in touch. 

What’s next for you? 

I have just applied to the Master of Science in public relations program at BU; hopefully, I’ll get in. I will also apply to PR jobs around the Boston area, but I’m not expecting much from the current job market.

Michelle Alberini, Staff Writer 

Born and raised in Reggio Emilia, Italy, a small city famous for its wine and cheese, Michelle Alberini is a first-year graduate student in the public relations program at the College of Communication. Prior to BU, Michelle received her bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies from Post University. There, she first matured a passion for storytelling and strategic communication, which she’s now excited to advance through her work at The COMmunicator. In her free time, Michelle likes to read (especially Harry Potter), watch true-crime documentaries, and call her family back home.    

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