Cate Bennett photo
Bennett (above) reflects on changes that COVID-19 restrictions have brought to team life.
Photo provided by MU Athletics

Bennett Reflects on Women’s Soccer During COVID-19 Pandemic

Jackson Johnstone

Being a soccer goalie at Manchester is quite a fun, yet challenging experience for exercise science major Catelyn Bennett. She finds it to be exhilarating due to the sheer fact that it is unlike any other position in the field.

Indeed, she is extremely passionate about the sport as well as Manchester. According to Bennett, she loves being goalie because it involves correcting her mistakes and it brings new challenges every day. What are some challenges? “Trying to stop a ball that’s being kicked at you at a high speed and making it look graceful,” she said.

Bennett believes that every sport, including soccer, has an art to it. “Don’t get me wrong; it’s not all rainbows and sunshine when you’re throwing yourself on the ground, but it’s all in good fun,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Being a goalie is a position that requires a significant amount of mental strength. “You must be focused and, on your toes, because a shot could be taken on you at any minute,” Bennett said.

Further, being a goalie is something that requires resiliency and strength, and that’s why a goalie cannot be a person who worries about past mistakes on the field. Soccer is not an individual sport, either. This is especially true for Bennett. “No matter what the score is, you always keep striving to do better and not just for yourself, for your teammates,” she said.

That is why Bennett shows up to practice every day as her love is not only for the sport but the teammates, the atmosphere, and the culture that the team has built over the years.

Team dynamics and culture are essential for a Manchester team and Bennett believes that especially this year the team is connected and acts as a family. According to her, her teammates tell each other everything and stand by each other when one is struggling.

Due to the pandemic, daily life as a goalie has changed. Instead of 3:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m., the practice has been moved to Monday-Thursday 6 a.m.-7:30 a.m.. This means that Bennett is up at 5:30 and on the field by 6:00 a.m. The practice involves a 15-minute warm-up, then splits off into goalkeepers vs field players for practice.

“Our practice varies every day, but at the start of the season we worked on more basic handling and set position,” she said.

As the season has progressed the team has worked more on full diving and 1 v. 1 drills, which is what they were working on at the end of last year. At the end of practice, both field players and goalies have a scrimmage.

According to Bennett, the biggest change this year is not being with her team all day. In the past years, the team would start practice and camp up to two weeks before classes start. This is sad for the team to miss as it has been important, as Bennett said, for them to build a culture and especially for the first-year students to become a part of our team.

This year the team split up into pods for the first couple of weeks and practiced based on class schedule and where students lived to limit contact. This was especially an issue as first-year students did not know the names of people in other groups, as well as there being a disconnect in culture and family dynamics within the team.

Bennett has particularly not enjoyed waking up at 5:30 a.m., although she has powered through. Ultimately, she would like to thank the team and everything that she says they have “conquered” during this pandemic and challenges that are continuously thrown their way.