Hearing his athletes’ conversations after the last game of a brief season was a heartwarming bonus for basketball coach Jamie Beaudoin. 

The challenges of working around the coronavirus and the sacrifices the University of Maine at Farmington women’s team made to compete in a two-game season was a worthwhile endeavor for the longtime coach.

The Beavers made the trip to Bangor in early March to take on Husson University, but something wonderful happened after UMF fell to the Eagles, 77-51, in its season finale that opened Beaudoin’s eyes.

“It felt like I was the only person on the bus (going to Husson),” he recalled. “After the game, it was the first time that my team got to spend time with each other, sitting around with their masks down because we were able to eat in the gym. But they had their masks down. They were eating and it was the first time they interacted with each other as a group without a mask.”

The Beavers opened their short season with a home loss to Maine Maritime Academy in late February.

Beaudoin was forced to hold separate practices for two groups because only so many people were allowed in Farmington’s Dearborn Gymnasium during the preseason.

“To hear the chatter, to hear the buzz of their voices to me was the most rewarding thing,” Beaudoin remembered. “Like we made it this far and you got to do this. The bus ride home — super talkative. To me, that was a sign that everything that we had gone through was a success because I got to see them as 18- to 22-year-olds really for the first time in those 290 days. I give them a lot of credit for what they were able to pull off.”

It was an abbreviated schedule, but it was still a long season for the Beavers. 

“In terms of shortened, our season was longer compared to previous years,” Beaudoin said. “Our season lasted 213 days, but we only practiced 60 times, had three games scheduled, but only played two. So it felt like we were together a really long time. 

“It was even more complex than that because of — No. 1 the masks, No. 2 was with our NCAA phases just to start our practices. We could only have a certain number of people in the gym. So for the first two weeks of our season, we had two different groups. Our players never saw each other. Throw in our own university policies, like if a player was symptomatic or a roommate was ill, we asked them not to come to practice.” 

For players and coaches alike, COVID-19 made it a touch-and-go season as the stubborn pandemic continued to make college life a challenge.

“I think our common goal and drive was to be at practice every day and take advantage of our opportunity to be together, knowing it could end at any moment,” Beaudoin said. “That we could be sent home and just knowing that  somebody might not be there today and hopefully be back tomorrow.”

Then the entire team made the decision to shelve traditional practices.

“They made a decision to say we want to still practice, but we want to do practicing six feet apart because they wanted to protect their chance to be able to go home for Thanksgiving,” he said. “It was complicated; it was complex. There was something brand new everyday that our team (and) the sports medicine staff had to deal with.”

When the season started, the coronavirus forced Beaudoin to change plans for the two-game competition.

“They sacrificed so much in their own lives as young people, but the one thing that I felt I owed to them was to try to make their basketball experience as normal as possible,” he explained. “We played two games, but everybody got a chance to play. I felt that was more important. I wasn’t going to withhold that from them.”

THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT

Senior Kasey Talarico finished a fine career at UMF and will be graduating in the spring. Jeff Lamb photo

The Beavers are losing only two seniors — Kasey Talarico of Lewiston and Halee Ramsdell. But seniors Alex Bessey of Jay and forward McKenna Brodeur, along with freshman forward Rosalie White, are returning. 

UMF’s Alex Bessey will be returning to play another year for the Beavers. Jeff Lamb Photo

“Currently, all of our other players are returning, so we are excited about the group,” Beaudoin said. “They have some other classes to take or are going to pick up a minor or another major in terms of having that opportunity to take that one shot to compete in collegiate sports.

“It is almost going to be a full year and half off of real competition when they get back hopefully in October ready to go. I think they have to make the individual effort to get better, to get in shape, to get back to where they were.” 

Beaudoin is all grateful to UMF and other departments for getting the short season off the ground.

“I think our university, our administration, our athletic staff, our sports medicine staff really went above and beyond to give our student athletes a sense of normalcy — and I know my student athletes appreciate that,” he said. “This year has been super challenging for them, and for them to come to practice every single day — and some of those days, there weren’t smiles underneath their masks.

“There was a lot of stuff going on, but they were still committed to the team. The days that there were smiles under the masks, to me, that was the most rewarding thing.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: