DANBURY, CT – COVID-19 has presented a variety of challenges in almost all areas of society. As the public has tried to find creative ways to continue to work, safely obtain food and household necessities, and educate children, many less immediate needs have been temporarily pushed aside. Among them, exposure to the arts via live performances, and participation in clubs and team sports either as a participant or spectator. In many ways, while we have been able to feed our bodies, we have been unable to engage in the things that feed our spirit. One Western Connecticut State University alumna, Laura Anderson, found a way to overcome this, and has been designated as a hero by the WCSU Alumni Association for her contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anderson was nominated by WCSU Alumni Association President Ray Lubus,
Anderson was a nontraditional student when she attended WCSU as a 27-year-old freshman in 1997. She graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing and a minor in Justice and Law Administration. In addition to her studies, Anderson was extremely active in WCSU’s NCAA Div. III sports programs.
She played women’s soccer at WCSU for four years under Coach Joe Mingachos. During that time, she was two-time All LEC 1st Team and a two-year team captain. As if that were not enough, Anderson was on the swim team for three years, one year as captain; and also played women’s lacrosse her senior year.
Mingachos remembers Anderson well.
“Laura is a very unique and special person,” Mingachos said. “When I first became the women’s soccer coach in 1997, Laura also joined the team that year. She made an immediate impact on the program, both on and off the field. The funny thing is that we were very similar in age. She was a player who everyone on the team looked up to. Not only was she playing soccer at the collegiate level, she was going to school full time to earn her degree, she was a wife, she was a mother, she had a job and she was helping her husband run his business. On top of all this, she didn’t stop with soccer, she was also was a member of the WCSU swim team and a member of the WCSU lacrosse team. Twenty-four years later, I still have not had a student-athlete like Laura. She is one of a kind!”
If anyone understands the need for team sports, it’s Anderson. So it’s no surprise that she is the volunteer co-president of the New Fairfield Soccer Club and also the JV Girls soccer coach at New Fairfield High School. When Covid arrived, Anderson had to rethink the rules.
“I would say the biggest challenge was conveying the Covid guidelines created by the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association (CJSA) to our soccer community, coaches, parents, players, spectators and officials,” she explained. “This being the first season that organized youth sports were allowed, it seemed every day was a new obstacle to navigate.
“I am pretty sure just about every single day of the fall season I was in communication with either a parent, coach or the Town of New Fairfield Health Director,” Anderson continued. “Many times, from the field as I was coaching. The main purpose of NFSC was to keep the kids playing as far into the season as possible, to do everything by the book so NFSC would never be a super spreader. If there were to be an outbreak in New Fairfield, we were determined to make sure it was not from soccer.”
As knowledge and understanding about the coronavirus developed, it became incumbent on Anderson to adapt quickly.
“Communicating protocols as they developed was challenging,” she said. “It was very time consuming and repetitive. We had more than 250 youth players in the fall. Add in the volunteer coaches and board members, and we were well over 300 members trying to navigate a fluid season. The majority of the communications were smooth with very understanding parties on the other side of those conversations. ALL decisions made were for the health and wellbeing for all.”
Anderson said the season went extremely well and they had the young athletes out on the field enjoying the game, the camaraderie, the fresh air and a bit of normalcy. “We had one full week of shutdown, as the New Fairfield schools had shutdown. We also had to suspend play for two other weekends for the same reason, following the school Covid closures.
“We are looking forward to the spring season. I think it will be a bit easier now, having a Covid season under our belts. We can’t wait to get out on the fields with the players! My mantra from the very first coaches meeting to my very last email to coaches in November was, ‘enjoy the moment, we don’t know when it will be taken away.’”
When asked if anything from her education at WCSU helped her manage the soccer league during Covid, Anderson replied, “Does flying by the seat of my pants count? Seriously, as a student athlete for all four years, knowing how to juggle one’s responsibilities effectively and efficiently is such a life skill. There was definitely a lot to juggle this fall. Also, relying on your team for help. The NFSC is run by volunteer board members. Together, as a team, we gave the NFSC members a season to remember.”
The WCSU Alumni Association is looking for WCSU alumni who have made tremendous contributions to their communities. The Alumni Association will award the Distinguished Alumni Service Award to alumni who have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic. This could mean providing community support, putting in extra time as an essential worker, and so on. When possible, the Alumni Association hopes to honor all recipients with an on-campus celebration.
For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.