For the Love of the Game

Though interscholastic sports are off the schedule for now due to scheduling complications in this era of COVID-19, Mustang athletes are working harder than ever to sharpen their skills and improve their fitness. Coaches have had to plan more than ever before, building comprehensive training programs designed to engage student-athletes who might be missing the thrill of competition. 

In his second year as head football coach, Kadeem Rodgers has succeeded in growing the program in light of the pandemic and despite the inability to play a full season schedule. Millbrook football is undeniably on the rise after last year’s triumphant 7-1 season, and Coach Rodgers has nearly doubled his roster this year. On the practice field this season, the team has built an abiding brotherhood and found success based on commitment and love of football. The coaching staff is committed to a student-centric approach and tracking player growth by benchmarking strength, speed, agility, and endurance. “Work in practice can be extrapolated,” said Coach Rodgers, “and I want my team to be able to say that no one works as hard as we do.” 

Athletics overall looks different this fall, as players focused on typical winter and spring sports are already working on skills, drills, and physical development. Boys varsity basketball players have been working diligently since mid-September, and Head Coach Billy Thom keeps faith that his team will have an opportunity to take the court against a NEPSAC opponent. College recruiters want to see prospects perform in live game situations, and the pandemic has made it almost impossible for players to showcase. VIth former Seth Caslin recently committed to play at Union College, and at least five players hope to make college teams. Coach Thom has been communicating both with scouts and potential opponents to schedule games as soon as conditions allow. One possible upside to the current situation is that the lack of intensive game prep allows the team to dive deeply into some of the social realities related to the game of basketball. Two players, Charlie Weisberg ’21 and Lucius Gibson-Savadel '23, will participate in a program focused on antiracism in school sports and will come back to work with teammates to educate and inform.  

Hockey players, too, were eager to begin drills, and they were out on the ice by October 5th, several weeks earlier than usual. Training is a year-round necessity for all hockey players, and teams had been doing strength and conditioning work outdoors in advance of any on-ice activity. Now that they are on skates, skills, drills, and film are ramping up. “You get better during practice,” says director of athletics and boys hockey head coach Vinnie Sorriento ’96. 

Girls Varsity Hockey Head Coach Erica Freymann is using the early start to keep things on track during an unprecedented time. Two Mustang seniors, Nicole Bessinger and Jeannie Wallner, are committed to college hockey programs (Sacred Heart and Long Island University, respectively), and Coach Freymann continues to see opportunities for others. “When you see how hard they work,” said Coach Freymann, “you want nothing but the best for them.”  The team’s early start has been great for building team chemistry and allows lots of time to develop skills and systems. The team may livestream scrimmages and practices to gain some visibility for VIth formers denied the chance to play in front of college scouts. "As coaches, we will make sure that our kids are supported,” said Coach Freymann, “games or not.”

Though the pause in competition has likely provided student-athletes an opportunity to focus on skills and rediscover their love of their game, they’re eager to play. Coaches across the board are staying in close communication, ready to compete as soon as possible.