A Virtual Spring Season

Mike Kotsopoulos
Despite the MIAA canceling its spring sports season, CM has provided its student-athletes with the opportunity to meet regularly this spring. And with that comes the resources needed to develop their student-athletes' skill set for future seasons.
CM Journalism student Brendan Galvin '22 contributed to this story.

South Boston, Mass.--
 Mr. Matthew Callahan sat at his makeshift desk and glanced at the corner of his computer screen.

The time on the screen’s clock read 2:45 PM, which meant he had 15 minutes to finalize the agenda for his weekly Zoom meeting with the Catholic Memorial School lacrosse team.

It was a warm May afternoon and, in between organizing his notepad and desktop film clips, he couldn’t help but think back to last spring. By that same time last year, Mr. Callahan, the head coach of the lacrosse team, would have been running drills with his team on the practice field, not cueing up a message on Microsoft Teams.

As soon as the clock hits 3 PM, he sends the team an ID and password needed to access his Zoom chat room. Then he does his best to add a sense of normalcy to the meeting, which begins with a quick recap of their last “virtual practice” from the week before.

“Who can go over what we talked about last week and one thing we learned?” Mr. Callahan asks his players.

One by one, the Zoom screen rotates and different student-athletes chime in to respond.




“We went over defense and how to protect the net,” says Will MacNeil, a junior.

“One slide from the crease, two slide from high and away.”

Mr. Callahan nods his head.

“Good,” he says.

“That’s exactly how we want to protect the house in a game.”

Despite the MIAA canceling its 2020 spring sports season over a month ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Callahan has continued to meet with his lacrosse program at least once a week. The CM Athletic Department advised its spring coaches to stay connected with their student-athletes as soon as the MIAA made the announcement.

“We want to be as competitive as possible and make strides to get better,” Mr. Callahan said.

The boys want to get better too. If we provide them with content, structure, and instruction, then they will do it.”

Thanks to the smooth transition the school had already made to its online learning program, every spring sports team has found success so far in providing its student-athletes with the resources needed to develop skill sets for future seasons along with an opportunity to meet as a program regularly.

According to Mr. Callahan, the weekly lacrosse meetings consist of a film session, an at-home workout assignment, and separate Zoom classroom sessions for student-athletes at the middle school, freshman, JV, and varsity levels. The film session - typically that of a CM game from 2019 - gives each player a chance to ask Mr. Callahan, a former All-American lacrosse player at Tufts, questions about technique and in-game strategy.

“This has really helped me understand the game more,” said Aidan Dever, a freshman.

“By looking at past game tapes, I’m able to correct my mistakes and improve for the future.”

The once-a-week meetings keep student-athletes on their toes, CM coaches say. They expect student-athletes to hold one another accountable, keep up with conditioning drills, and invite more of their classmates to attend meetings.

“With quarantine, everyone starts off with a clean slate,” said Gage Mohammed, a junior.

“We all have this opportunity, with the technology and tools we have, to talk about things like defense and to practice the hard work we preach.”

Some coaches offer their own unique twist to their weekly meetings. Head baseball coach Mr. Hal Carey schedules two meetings per week on Microsoft Teams along with what he calls an “office hours” session on Fridays.

During the meetings, Mr. Carey references different workouts he assigns to each position group. The workouts range from practicing swinging mechanics without a bat to muscle memorization for fielding in a driveway.

“It’s not the most exciting stuff but it’s the important stuff that you still need to master in a normal baseball season,” said Mr. Carey.

At his virtual Friday office hours, Mr. Carey meets one-on-one with anybody who wants to discuss the possibility of playing summer ball or how to navigate the college recruitment process.  
According to Mr. Carey, the meetings and office hours establish a strong sense of trust between student-athletes and coaches and hold student-athletes accountable.

“The guys who are going to decide to put the work in on their own will benefit most from it,” Mr. Carey says.

“For freshmen and sophomores who decide to work on these drills  especially if they’re working on those baseball skills when others aren’t  those guys will be way ahead of the curve.”

Even those not participating in spring sports this year appreciate the great lengths made by the Athletic Department to provide high quality resources for the rest of its student-athletes.

Boston College football commit Owen McGowan applauded Athletic Trainer Mr. Jepthe Soulouque and Strength and Conditioning Coach Mr. Sam MacNicoll for creating modified home workout plans tailored to specific sports. Owen, who received an offer from Stanford in March, said the workout plans allow him to continue his training regime from home, even without access to the school’s Walsh Field House.

He also praised Athletic Director Mr. Craig Najarian for his leadership in overseeing the entire program.

“Those three put together a program for all student-athletes that covers all areas of physical performance and has really helped me improve,” said Owen, a junior.

Those same resources extend to non-athletes too. In March, the Athletic Department launched its Move More Challenge for the entire CM school community.

Using the Wellable app, students competed against one another in a series of physical activities at home by grade. They earned points for each activity and track their progress on the app. 
Knowing how hard the school worked to put all its online resources together, Owen says he feels motivated to train harder than ever.

“The school community has definitely motivated me because of all the hard work they put in to get this program out to us athletes,” said Owen.

Everyone is so dedicated to what they do, so returning the favor and dedicating time to the program is the least we can do.”

Mr. Najarian, who also coaches freshman baseball, says he appreciates the tireless work and dedication from every coach in his Athletic Department.

“Hopefully this [has become] another resource for all of you at home,” he said.

“Being able to hop on a Microsoft Teams call with my freshman baseball team was easily one of the most refreshing things of these past six weeks.”

Still though, despite the weekly meetings with student-athletes and community-wide online workings, little makes up for a lost season – especially for seniors.

In honor of those senior student-athletes who lost their final spring season, Mr. Najarian found a way to honor those seniors left to wonder, “what if.”

On the first Monday night of May, he kept the lights to the athletic fields shining on the athletic fields for 20 minutes, a tribute to the Class of 2020.

“It’s a small gesture that will let you guys know we’re thinking about [our seniors],” he said.

“We’re looking forward to the time when you guys can come back to your second home, Catholic Memorial.”

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Catholic Memorial, the Christian Brothers School of Boston, prepares boys for college, manhood and a world full of unknown challenges, ambiguity and complex problems and the importance of relationships.

CATHOLIC MEMORIAL SCHOOL

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West Roxbury, Massachusetts 02132
Phone: 617-469-8000
Fax: 617-977-5689