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Men’s lacrosse coach Tim Murphy reflects on preparing to play in uncertain times

By Joseph Taft

Tim Murphy looks forward to coaching the Curry men’s lacrosse team again come springtime, in what he hopes will be his 18th start to a new season, Murphy is known around campus for his passion for sports and competition. In what may very well be the most unprecedented year of all in his tenure at Curry, the Currier Times had the chance to chat with Murphy on life during quarantine, how things are being handled on his end and the road ahead.

Q. Were there any challenges you had to face or go through during quarantine?

A. Oh yeah, absolutely. The biggest challenge early on was having our season canceled. For the first time in 20 years, there was no college lacrosse for me in the month of April. That was pretty surreal, and honestly a tough time to navigate through. Our staff and team worked so hard for the past nine months to prepare for an opportunity to compete, but we weren’t able to. From there, it became trying to make sure all 40-plus players were accommodated for; just making sure they were following up with their classes and not falling behind. That was a challenge too.

Q. With no lacrosse, what did you do to keep busy over quarantine? Any new hobbies?

A. I’m probably the only person crazy enough to try and sell a house during a pandemic. My wife and I bought our second home, but then had to sell the previous one, which we were able to do a month later. Moving from Quincy, Mass., to Providence, R.I., brought along its own challenges. When it comes to hobbies, I was in desperate need to fill that competition gap. There was about a month straight where my wife and I would play tennis four to five times a week against each other. We also bought a boat at the end of last summer, so we had a chance to use that a few times over break. That was nice.

Q. How did it feel to finally get pro-sports back during that time?

A. It was great until the Bruins lost to Tampa Bay. That series with Carolina was a real treat, though. I watched more professional lacrosse this summer than I ever have. By the end of the season, I’m usually burnt out and just need a break from the sport. Having the season canceled made me hungry for more lacrosse. I watched every game I could; with the MLL and PLL [Major League Lacrosse and Premiere Lacrosse League] being two of the first pro-sports to return, it was awesome. I can’t bring myself to watch the Red Sox though, it’s pretty brutal right now. I was a massive fan throughout my teens and 20s, and over the past eight to 10 years, I have become less interested. Now, with no fans, and them being terrible, I can’t bring myself to watch it. It hurts.

Q. Yeah, the Sox have been brutal. Let’s move over to college sports. How has the world’s current state affected your mind-set when it comes to managing a safe return-to-play?

A. In terms of safe return-to-play, collegiately, I think we just need to be as smart as we can with all the real-time data and information we are receiving.  Nothing is status quo.  We have been fortunate as a staff to make some pretty big adjustments over the last five years to our practice planning and game plan in order to adapt to some new rules, as pace of play has increased in our sport. I think that has helped us adopt the Marine term, “adapt and overcome.” We have been ready to make whatever adjustments in order to prolong the semester, and hopefully be able to play in the spring. Spaced-out workouts and the great weather helped us out a ton. I think that if we stay warm for a bit, we will be able to make all of our adjustments outside. If winter comes early, it could cause some issues though.

Q. How do you think Curry student athletes are handling it?

A.  I think our students and specifically our student athletes are handling it quite well. I am constantly reminding players to stay diligent with protocols and making sure they are following our community guidelines away from our athletics facilities as well. I think overall they are doing a pretty good job staying on top of things and following the guidelines. They don’t mean to have their mask down; they just forget and need the reminder.

Q. How have the team workouts been so far, from your perspective?

A. They have been going well. It’s certainly different training with a coach and your peers than it would be at home by yourself during a pandemic. I think a lot of our student athletes learned quickly that they may have spent a little too much time on the couch watching Netflix (myself included!). We keep them anywhere from 5 to 10 yards apart, gridded-out during the workouts. It was interesting programming these routines because the idea of lines has changed. They now all need to be spread out, turned the same way, and still have 5 yards of distance when they return to their lines from both the athletes in line, and the ones currently working. I’ve been feeling like a marching-band conductor out there some mornings! We just rolled multiple teams into the weight room, so we are hoping that goes well. We are fogging in there every three to four hours with an electromagnetic spray gun.

Q. What are you looking for most out of your upperclassmen this year that may be different from others? That includes juniors, seniors, and fifth-year players alike.

A. Man, there is such a unique opportunity for our upperclassmen. We have two players who had their senior season taken from them, who now have an opportunity to rewrite history on how they finished their careers, while at the same time beginning their master’s coursework. Our actual seniors and juniors have a chance to step into some big leadership roles, of course. There is a lot of personal responsibility that goes into a pandemic, like a socially-distant training season. Without as much interaction, the older guys need to make sure the underclassmen that are in their leadership groups are doing all the right things, even more so than other years

Q. In a time of so many uncertainties, can you speak to the resiliency of these athletes?

A. Resiliency?! These guys had their season taken away, had to leave campus in 24 hours after getting back from a spring break trip at 11 p.m., shift to an all-online academic format when the vast majority need interpersonal interactions in order to process what they are learning, change everything about what their academic structure and scheduling looks like going forward, and not to mention will be graduating in a volatile economic climate and job market. If these guys aren’t resilient, I don’t know who is. The best part is, they do it with a smile on their face and keep working hard every day to stay at school, interact with their peers, and train for a season that right now they are just hoping will happen. If we do it right, we should graduate the MOST resilient students that we have ever had over the next five to six years.

Q. What are some of the important factors that go into making a season happen this year?

A. There really are a million different variables, and many, unfortunately, we don’t have much control over. We just need our entire student body, staff and faculty to stay diligent with what is being asked of us, and be willing to adapt to any new measures that get put into place. I think we are learning new things about this virus every minute, and we need to trust that the information we are getting is accurate. It seems like everyone is looking for all the answers or a magic pill, but those things don’t exist. I have been finding myself saying “I don’t know” a lot more than I have ever done before, but I think that is OK. Not having the answers right now doesn’t make you less intelligent. I think it is actually the opposite, if someone can honestly tell you they don’t have the answer but are working hard to figuring it out. Hopefully someone a lot smarter than me figures it out, and we are able to play this spring.

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