Siefer’s Scoop Podcast: A semester in review

By Blaise Siefer

This semester, I’ve had the pleasure of producing the first season of the Siefer’s Scoop podcast for The Middlebury Campus. The podcast provides a window into the lives and perspectives of collegiate student-athletes, most of whom compete at Middlebury. For the past three months, I’ve interviewed 11 Middlebury student-athletes – spanning 11 varsity teams – about how Covid-19 has affected their year, the ways being an athlete has shaped their Middlebury experience and why they chose Middlebury, specifically. I also produced an episode diving into the political activism led by student-athletes this semester, which was featured in our Election Issue. There’s a lot to reflect on, but here’s an abbreviated recap of what I have learned from the podcast this semester.

First off, Covid-19 presented predictable challenges to the realm of athletics. Athletes adjusted to masks and social distancing mandates, which introduced novel elements to practices. Some athletes struggled with finding a mask that was compatible with their rigorous exercise, and others longed for the group-wide drills that restrictions prohibited.

“It’s tough [wearing masks],” Noah Whiting ’22 said. “If you’re sweating a lot like I do and you’re running for a while after a certain point [the sweat] does start to fill your mouth. A lot of us will run with multiple masks on us and just switch them during the run or during intervals.”

Athletes also missed the element of competition this season, with the NESCAC cancelling competition this summer. Many teams turned to alternatives such as intrateam competition or virtual meets, finding creative ways to quench the thirst for competition.

Outside of Covid-19, our student-athletes spoke enthusiastically about why they loved their team. Long rides to matches, for example, are a bright spot for squash player Alex Stimpson ’23. Eli Drachman ’24 spoke highly of meals with the swim team, and Amanda Frank ’23 reflected positively on the adventures she’s taken with the tennis team, such as apple picking this fall. Other athletes described the built-in support system that sports teams provide and the valuable time management skills that they’ve learned through being an athlete.

Perhaps my favorite section of the podcast was my staple “Why Midd?” question. Answers varied, but common responses included the people, culture and aesthetic beauty of the campus. Hearing these responses often brought a smile to my face, reminding me to be grateful for the place I call home.

“The campus is incredible,” Lizzie Kenter ’23 said. “Vermont at any time of the year I’m in love with. Every student that I talked to here seemed extremely passionate about whatever it was that they were doing and that was an intoxicating thing.”

“It became really clear to me that… it’s a special team, and this is a special place,” Drachman said. “[Middlebury] stands out. Coming here and immediately feeling a part of the team meant the world to me.”

This podcast has taught me a lot of things: how to record audio via Zoom, how to navigate editing software and how to generate questions for interviews. But one of my biggest takeaways was that through all the craziness right now — the pandemic, election and social justice issues — our students are able to figure sh*t out. This semester may be abnormal, but our athletes expressed that as long as we are able to live, learn and compete with one another in the heart of the Champlain Valley, we have things pretty d*mn good.

Thank you for supporting the Siefer’s Scoop podcast this fall. Thank you for the kind words, enthusiastic inquiries and feedback. If you or someone you know is interested in being a guest on the podcast in the future, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

I’m looking forward to next semester, where I’ll kick off season two of the podcast.

’Til then, stay well, and go Panthers!