Student-athletes getting back to normal as COVID restrictions are lifted

Student-athletes who suffered emotionally when the pandemic changed the way they had to practice are getting back into the swing of things.
Updated: May. 12, 2022 at 10:45 PM EDT
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WNEM) - With a base hit to left field, Delta College baseball player Caleb Buda drives in a run bringing Delta within one.

That’s just one example of how Caleb has improved.

“I feel like I’m a better player, better leader, and a better man,” Buda said. Buda is better because strict COVID protocols didn’t strike him out, instead, they made him stronger.

Now Buda feels like he’s living his best life now and doing what he loves, playing baseball with no constraints and enjoying his teammates up close.

Buda feels so much better, he even tells his friends how they can hit a home run living a new normal.

“Do everything to better yourself mentally and physically,” Buda said. “Be a positive force in a negative situation.”

It’s been a little tougher for 21-year-old Delta College softball player Avery Nowosad. She’s still trying to adapt to a new normal.

“Adapting was huge, especially on the fly, we had to learn how to be more comfortable in an uncomfortable setting,” Avery said.

Being with her teammates is helping her pull through.

“We can be out here, no masks, talking like we are now is really cool to me,” Nowosad said.

Carrington Pryor is a junior playing football at Saginaw Heritage High School. That’s a big part of his new normal.

“It’s a real dedication to play football but I absolutely love every minute of it,” Carrington said. “The brotherhood you get with football, with teammates, you can’t beat it anywhere else.”

But during COVID, sports looked and felt different. Carrington says his grades took a hit.

“I didn’t like it because I’m an A and B student in school. So it was different struggling for the first time,” Carrington said. “I had to learn to adjust, and there were a lot of low moments but I had to persevere.”

Carrington credits his parents, Chris and Kenyatta Pryor, for helping him persevere, get his grades back on track, prepare for college and his athletic aspirations.

“We’re trying to help him as best we can as he prepares for college next year to do all we can to make up for the deficit we had during the covid year to give him the best opportunities for college admissions, scholarships,” Kenyatta Pryor said. “So we’re navigating that path now.”

Carrington’s dad is beaming with excitement.

“I’m excited for him, I’m excited he’s able to interact with his friends so this new normal has given that back, still take precautions and being mindful of different areas but he’s doing very good,” Chris Pryor said.

The same goes for Sugar Beets softballer, 10-year-old Ryelle Thompson. She doesn’t mind telling anyone that she’s good.

“I’d say I’m pretty good,” Ryelle said.

Ryelle’s hitting it out of the park with no lock-downs. Her new normal is filled with running and playing softball every chance she gets.

“I get to be with my friends a lot and it’s one of my favorite sports,” Ryelle said.

Ryelle’s dad and coach, Ryan, is always right by her side making sure she gets to be a kid again in their new normal.

“Now, we’re just trying to play catch up from having a couple of years off and I just want to make sure they’re having fun,” Ryan said.

Fun pretty much sums up 14-year-old Aiden LaFond’s new normal. It’s jam-packed with a ton of baseball and sunshine. Aiden says being outside just makes him feel better.

“It feels a lot better than when we were stuck at home,” Aiden said.

Aiden’s dad, Adam, says he’s doing everything to make sure Aiden doesn’t ever feel stuck again, by taking it one base at a time. Adam believes it’s about time for a fresh start.

“It’s great we celebrate new beginnings, new life, I’m glad it’s all over with, at least it feels like it is,” Adam said.