Gabby Diodati ‘21 is a midfielder on Fairfield University’s women’s soccer team from Mendon, Mass. She has been an integral part of the team since her first year here. Last season, Diodati scored five goals and had eight assists. She has amassed a career total of 30 points over 54 games played. She has just one more season left to play, but it is filled with uncertainty as she is living through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: What were your initial thoughts and feelings when you heard your season was postponed or even possibly cancelled? When did it become a realization for you?
A: I think over the course of the summer we were kind of being told to be hopeful, but at the same time to be realistic and prepare for all situations. I think initially it was disappointing because nobody ever wants their senior season to be cancelled. It was disappointing, but at the same time I was kind of expecting it. We were seeing other conferences start to cancel their seasons, which kind of led us to believe that it was only a matter of time before ours would be cancelled. I think we were not as surprised as spring sports maybe were. We just had so much more information and so many more expectations that I think it wasn’t this shocking thing that it happened.
Q: How has the postponement affected your current day-to-day life compared to previous semesters?
A: With our season being postponed, our training and practice schedules, and what would have been a game schedule, look different. We set up all our schedules for this semester in advance and we set them up to make sure it accommodates the games, but obviously now that’s different. I think it also changes or adds a component of stress because we do not know if there will be a season in the spring. The uncertainty of it all can be a little overwhelming, and this goes for anybody no matter what. Despite the postponement of our season, I think it definitely makes things a little challenging, but it is an opportunity to grow and [it is important] for everybody to continue to be motivated even if our season is postponed.
Q: How has COVID-19 affected the spirit of everyone on the team? Do you feel like the team, including the new first-years, are equally as close of a team as years past?
A: I think it’s definitely been more difficult for the sole reason that usually we have a whole month before everybody gets here where we are together 24/7. Being around each other all the time helps to develop strong relationships. But, I think despite not being able to do that, we still have implemented unique ways to establish those relationships from afar. The seniors obviously live off campus, so it is not like we are around each other besides practice, so that’s definitely been more challenging. But we have used ways like coming up with groups and making sure that we are holding each other accountable over the summer. We would use different groups from different years and have a groupchat, just like checking-in, making sure everyone was doing okay over the summer. I think that definitely helped. As a first-year, coming in is scary and I think it helps to kind of make them feel a little more comfortable to at least know a couple more people. Now we are in practice, so we can see each other there. I think it’s definitely different overall, but I think at the end of the day it’s just going to take more time, but we still will develop those strong relationships. I am not worried about that.
Q: What has late summer and fall training been like? Do you feel that precautions have inhibited the team’s ability to have a proper practice? What do these trainings look like as compared to years past?
A: No, I would not say that it has inhibited our training, but rather shifted our focus for right now. With the season being canceled and guidelines being strict in terms of how many people you can have out there, it is definitely more focused on working on our technical abilities and tactics. Although right now it is uncertain whether we [will] have our season in the spring, it is important that we continue to motivate each other. We have really focused on this concept of competing. We are competing in everything that we do, whether it be fitness or technical drills, because everything right now is non-contact. That is definitely different than years past because usually right now we would be preparing to play games so we would be doing some kind of contact. That has kind of shifted the way that we practice, but not necessarily the way that we compete. I think that’s definitely going to continue to be an important point for us because we are going to prepare like we have a season no matter what.
Q: If you do end up having a season, what do you expect? What are you anticipating?
A: I think it is really hard to try and come up with what it is going to look like in your mind because everything is so uncertain. I think that we are kind of looking mainly at a conference season. I think there are going to be different rules and regulations; it is not going to be like it has been in the past and I think that is going to be something important to look at. There are going to be different rules in terms of when you have to wear a mask, if it has to be worn on the bench and with how many people you are allowed to travel. All those things are definitely going to impact us as a team, especially for those who have been here and know differently, as compared to the incoming students who do not know any differently yet. It might be a bit of an easier transition for them. I think it may also be a shorter season, which is a little disappointing if it is our last season. I can’t say anything past that because it is so uncertain.
Q: What would you do, personally, if your only option is to play next year, similar to that extra year given to spring sport athletes? Would you stick around and play?
A: Personally, yes. I still have more to give to this program and I think we have a little bit of unfinished business from last year. So, if we don’t have a spring, I would definitely consider coming back in the fall. To me, it is important to play my last season, whether that be in the spring or fall. I definitely think that is in the cards for me.
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