Behind the mask: Catchers face distinct mental, physical tests

All sports involve more than just the on-field game—they involve the game of perspective. It may seem as if athletes have it easy from the perspective of a fan looking on from the sidelines, but it can take a serious mental and physical toll on the athletes.

This holds especially true for two Geneseo softball catchers: senior Jami Cohen and sophomore Taylor Knowles. According to them, being behind the plate is not far off from being a movie director.

“Being a catcher, you’re the only one on the field who can see everything at one time,” Cohen said. “It’s really up to you to kind of direct traffic when you have [the field] in view. If you want the ball to go to a certain place, you have to be the one to communicate that.”

Knowles also commented on how catchers have to be keenly aware of all areas of the field. “I have to control parts of the field,” she said. “I see everything that’s going on and I have to tell people where to throw the ball. I’m always yelling—it helps keep people mentally prepared.”

Knowles noted that catchers have to possess the ability to multitask from behind the plate. “I can’t pay attention to just one thing,” Knowles said. “I’m paying attention to multiple things at once, especially when there is someone on base.”

The process to ensure that everybody is coordinated on a pitch-to-pitch basis can lead to stress—stress that builds throughout the season. Still, catchers cannot let it hinder their playing abilities for the sake of securing a victory.

“It’s a lot of pressure sometimes,” Cohen said. “Especially when [a] runner is on third and the game is on the line. You can’t let anything by and you want to call the right pitch. You want to see your team be successful and I feel that starts with the catcher.”

Beyond the mental and emotional stress, being in a squatting position for several hours can take a considerable physical toll on the catchers’ bodies. Cohen unfortunately felt the effects at a young age. “I have already been through one knee surgery and I am probably on my way to another when I end my career,” she said.

Knowles has been lucky to avoid any major injuries from softball, as she was a third baseman in high school before transitioning catcher at Geneseo. “I’d say it’s more strain on our legs than other positions,” Knowles said. “I [notice the strain] more in practice than in games since we are on our legs squatting for one to two hours.”

Through all the pressure and stress that comes with being a catcher, however, both women said that they have a love for playing the game from their position.

The Knights look to continue their 10 game winning streak on Friday April 17 at home against SUNY Plattsburgh.