Florida soccer

Athletes have discovered that they have more free time because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of them have used this time to find new hobbies.

Carina Baltrip-Reyes, a Florida soccer player, has used this time to develop a passion for puzzles and bike riding.

“I like going on bike rides. “I've been on the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail a couple times,” she said. “That's something that I've gotten into that I probably wasn't able to do before.”

She said she hopes to convince her teammates to start riding with her.

“If we have a day off, I definitely want to do that (bike ride),” she said. “And I would love to do it with one of my teammates because it was a lot of fun to bike there and picnic.” 

Even with the extra free time, Baltrip-Reyes is trying to maintain her fitness level. The rising redshirt senior started every match for the Gators at outside back and led them in minutes per match at 89.4.

Like other fall sports, Baltrip-Reyes said the soccer team isn’t allowed to have contact with the coaching staff during a typical offseason: but, the coaches have been able to send the players workout plans to complete individually.

When Summer B starts, the team normally comes back together, focusing on its fitness level. according to Baltrip-Reyes. 

However, everything changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said coach Becky Burleigh and her staff have taken the offseason on a week-by-week basis because nobody knew when they could come back on campus. The University Athletic Association announced on May 22 that soccer players can return starting June 15. 

Some of Baltrip-Reyes’ teammates have had a difficult time locating places that are safe for them to train because they live up north, where there was cold spring weather and closed gyms. But, she hasn’t faced any obstacles so far this offseason.

“For me, it hasn't been too difficult,” Baltrip-Reyes said. “I have a friend who used to play soccer at UF a while back, and her family owns a private gym, so I've been able to go there and lift.”

She added that she has been able to have a consistent schedule for her workouts.

Most Florida student-athletes opted to go home once everything closed, but Baltrip-Reyes and some of her senior teammates elected to stay in Gainesville.

They decided to stay because they didn’t have access to a gym or a soccer field back home. She has used the former UF soccer player’s gym to practice.

But, like many UF students, academics still take up most of her time, since she’s in graduate school earning a master’s degree in sport management.

She said that, since her classes were already online, there was no transition she had to make when classes went virtual.

“It kind of even gave me more leeway, and it's more convenient now because my lectures are pre-recorded,” Baltrip-Reyes said. “I can set a time to do school, and then set a time to work out, and then all the other things I would like to do.”

The Gators, however, like the rest of the world, are becoming accustomed to communicating through virtual platforms. Baltrip-Reyes said the team has a Zoom meeting every Wednesday.

The team refers to this meeting as “Real World Wednesday.” For a couple of hours, the team talks issues players face in real life, like how to budget finances or have a tough conversation that may hurt the other person’s feelings.

The seniors also host FaceTime calls with the incoming freshmen on Friday to see how they are doing.

She said the incoming freshmen currently feel intimidated, but that is to be expected since they haven’t met the team yet. She also hopes that this makes their transition smoother when they finally arrive on campus.

Even though soccer isn’t a spring sport that had its season canceled, Baltrip-Reyes added that the squad was upset when they found out that practices for the rest of the semester had been squashed.

She said she was looking forward to training again and the spring exhibition matches.

“I think it was a Thursday at practice,” Baltrip-Reyes said. “Practice ended and they're (coaching staff) like, ‘We don't have practice for the rest of the semester.’ And it was weird because our coaches are like, ‘If anyone wants to come to practice tomorrow morning, we can, but that's going to the last practice that we can have.’ So, a lot of us showed up the next day, but it was just sad to realize that we wouldn't be together for a while.”

Burleigh has implored the team to find the positive things about life because of all the uncertainty in the world, according to Baltrip-Reyes. 

“To find the positive side of things, there's a lot of uncertainty right now on whether our season is going to be postponed, or whether we're gonna have the same fitness like injuries,” she said. “But, I think to see the positive side of things and see the good that comes out of this situation.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter @zacharyahuber. Contact him at [email protected]

Zachary Huber covers men's tennis for the Alligator. This is his first semester working for The Alligator. He's a junior studying journalism at UF.