Athlete Spotlight: Yael Gelman, lacrosse, Montclair High School senior
PHOTO BY ANDREW GARDA/STAFF
by Andrew Garda
With the Covid-19 forced cancellation of the spring sports season as well as things seniors normally enjoy their final year, the Montclair Local is honoring senior athletes with individual spotlights. We wish them well and hope that this is some small recompense for what is being missed.
While the loss of the end of her senior year, as well as her final year playing lacrosse for Montclair High School, is disappointing, Yael Gelman is keeping perspective.
“Obviously these things suck, for me to not have graduation, possibly our prom and obviously the loss of my lacrosse season,” she said on a phone call. “But as the global crisis has gotten worse and as time has gone on, I’m caring less about that and caring more about, like, the safety of my community.”
Everyone is making sacrifices, she said, and hers is easier to bear than others.
“I know that that will be a much greater loss than anything for my senior year,” Gelman said. “Everybody is experiencing loss. This is just like my version of loss.”
Like everyone else, Gelman continues to isolate with her family, but still reaches out to her lacrosse teammates and friends. Not long ago the team had a virtual dinner — not everyone had pasta, so the traditional pasta party had to be adjusted — and they are constantly reaching out via Zoom, Instagram, and other platforms.
Sometimes they take a more direct route.
“My friends and I have seen each other at very great distances and yelled across [at] each [other],” Gelman said. “My friends drive up to my house, and I’ll just peek out of my door. That’s kind of just necessary to just have that connection.”
Gelman said those particular friends used to get lunch together and still do. It’s just a tad different.
“I have a core friend group of, like, six people, and we used to get lunch together every day,” she said. “On school days, during what used to be the lunch hour, we all get our lunch together and we have a group FaceTime.”
Much like lunchtime with friends, Gelman and her lacrosse teammates use their social media and virtual connections to stay in touch and push each other to stay in game shape.
“We have weekly workouts on Fridays,” she explained. “Also, there is the Instagram challenges that we do every week. So for example, we first did the 10 push-up challenge and then we did a video where we had what we called the virtual lacrosse practice, which is where one person starts with the ball, they do a stick trick and they pass it off, and the video cuts to the next person, who then catches the ball and then it moves on. We did a Game Day game face challenge where we just posted pictures of our, like, best game faces.”
Gelman said she also tries to use apps like MapMyRun to track her own runs and see what her teammates are doing, then based on that, push herself to beat them.
When not connecting with friends, Gelman is spending time pursuing numerous hobbies.
“One thing that I’ve dedicated myself to doing is reading a book every two days,” she said. “So I’ve been reading a lot, and it’s kind of been an opportunity for me to bond with my parents over some of the books. Exploring books that they enjoyed in college and high school, and that meant a lot to them.”
Gelman is also writing a lot.
“I’ve been keeping daily journals. And at first it was hard because, like, nothing’s really going on, or that’s how I felt. But I think it’s really important to, like, reflect on how we feel during this time because it’s unprecedented, and I’m sure we’ll look back at it and wonder how we dealt with it.”
While she’s contemplating what is happening now, Gelman is also looking forward. She is slated to attend Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., this fall, where she will also play lacrosse.
She’s not sure if she’ll be on campus in the fall, though, and is preparing for a disrupted entry into college.
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“Which is especially hard to think about, as an incoming freshman,” she said. “And I think a lot of people are just kind of confused, like, and discussing with their parents about possibly taking a gap year, or maybe this is maybe the freshmen don’t start until the second semester.”
She’s talking to current Vassar students and her coaches, trying to get a sense of what to expect and how to prepare for whatever comes her way, including a potential shift in discipline.
“I think that I was always super-certain about what I wanted to do in college. I wanted to go into journalism and study Middle Eastern studies,” Gelman said. “But as I’ve been gaining more of an appreciation for, like, reading novels and writing myself, I’m kind of questioning what I want to do.”
Right now, she’s got plenty of time to think about that.