If Hollywood films have taught us anything, it’s that student-athletes have it good. Channeling Spike Lee’s “He Got Game”, it seems that participating in a sport almost always gains you the stereotypical college experience: notoriety, success and of course, invites to all the best parties.
Except, none of these movies took place in the middle of a pandemic that claimed the lives of over half a million Americans in less than a year.
And so, 20-year-old Kinesiology major Madison Blohm, sighs.
“Covid has just been…mean to me,” Blohm says. “I literally just wanted my season.”
These days, her routine consists of Zoom classes, playing video games, and hanging out with her significant other whenever possible.
Blohm, who grew up and currently lives in La Crescenta, was first drawn to the school because her mother is an alumna of the college. However, it was her older cousin who is also a former Lancer, that introduced her to coaches of the women’s volleyball team at PCC.
Despite only attending PCC in-person from the Summer 2019 semester until the campus closed in mid-March 2020, the student-athlete asserts that her time as a Setter for the women’s volleyball team allowed her to build powerful friendships with her teammates, as well as serve as an outlet for her to assert her competitive edge.
It is at the mention of her team’s 2019 season, though, that Blohm instantly perks up and discloses the lesser-known key to a volleyball team’s success: chemistry.
“That was probably the best season of volleyball I’ve ever played,” Blohm recalls. “Everyone on the team was just so good, it’s hard to explain. We had a very good connection since we had been seeing each other everyday and that’s very important in volleyball.”
Consequently, the team’s array of after-practice hangouts and blithe locker room antics manifested themselves on the court as a bond that would land the group among the top-three teams of the South Coast Conference that season.
When it comes to honing her own athletic skills, the 5’7 athlete discloses that she takes inspiration from some of her favorite female athletes, such as three-time Olympic gold medalist, Misty May-Treanor, whom Blohm personally met on one occasion at Long Beach City College where the Olympian was coaching.
“In a volleyball sense, I’ve [learned from others to be] loud and talkative because talking is a big part of volleyball’s communication,” Blohm says. “If you’re not talking the game just gets…bleh.”
When speaking on the gender pay gap in sports and the lack of recognition female athletes receive in relation to their male counterparts, Blohm relays her own experiences in challenging stereotypes.
Blohm shares how she made a habit of purposely lifting as much as safely possible back in PCC weight rooms just to show those around her that she was capable of the same things they were.
“I want to prove to myself and everyone else that I am strong,” Blohm says. “…and that I can punch a guy out if I need to.”
She then laughs.
In terms of Athletics at PCC, Blohm expresses gratitude toward the Stan Gray Academic Athletic Zone at PCC, which provides student-athletes with comprehensive learning assistance through program-specific counseling, tutoring, and life development resources.
The center is known colloquially by athletes as simply “the Zone”.
“They want to help you in whatever way they can,” Blohm said. “If I didn’t have that support I wouldn’t have been able to transfer… or do anything by myself. I honestly would have been so lost.”
Thus, it seemed like Blohm was getting close to what all college students dream of, a place in life where she could come into her own and truly bloom.
Then the pandemic hit.
Echoing a storyline similar to students across the country, Blohm recalls sitting in chemistry class when she was told by her professor that the school would be shutting down.
Unluckily, the new mandate came the same week her team planned to begin off-season conditioning in the campus’s indoor gym.
Not having known that the game her team played against Moorpark College in late November of 2019 would be her last ever at PCC, Blohm expressed that she didn’t play as much as she wanted to.
As for advice she’d give her past self before that last performance on the court, Blohm keeps it short and sweet:
“I’d tell myself to have confidence, work hard, and make sure that that ball absolutely does not touch the ground.”
Since then, the PCC student-athlete fights off out-of-season blues by working out at home, as well as participating in casual games against friends at Cal Poly Pomona’s facilities.
Taking advantage of the hot, summer weather in California last year, Blohm at one point hit the beach every Sunday to play there as well.
But this dreamy Southern California facade may be crumbling.
A December 2020 report published by Stop AAPI Hate exposes that L.A. County is the “nation’s leading aggregator of COVID-19-related hate incidents against Asian Americans,” with over 240 incidents reported to the site between the months of March and October of last year.
Even more damning evidence: NBA G-League player, Jeremy Lin, who once played for the city of Los Angeles as a Laker point-guard, took to social media this month to express resentment toward age-old stereotypes that objectify Asian-Americans, mock their eye shape and demand that they “keep their heads down and stay out of trouble”.
The issue was even addressed by President Joe Biden in his first primetime address to the nation late last week, where he condemned the “scapegoating” of Asian Americans, before dubbing these hate crimes “vicious” and “un-American”.
Blohm feels that comments such as Lin’s are definitely necessary. While she admits that her mixed-race background has perhaps shielded her from experiencing any intense encounters with racism, she maintains that it is a problem.
Though, there was that one instance—a cough at Disneyland a few weeks before Covid-mandates blew up, which earned Blohm a harsh stare from a nearby guest before they angrily walked away from her. It was here that Blohm felt she had to ask herself, “Okay, is he staring at me because I coughed or because I’m Asian?”
Pasadena City College, which boasts a mission statement of “Education. Diversity. Opportunity.” and a core value of “appreciation for diversity”, is home to a 26 percent Asian-student population.
Tony Barbone, athletic director at PCC, asserts that sports culture at the school is “respectful”.
“Our student-athletes are very supportive of each other…” Barbone said in a previous inquiry via email. “They commit to the tenets of the college [and] engage academically while representing PCC in such a positive manner. This attitude is enriched by our coaches and staff that provide environments that breed success and unity.”
Further calls for support mount within the PCC community, as seen in a recent statement from the Coalition of Asian Pacific Employees (CAPE).
“We need our allied communities to stand up against all forms of racism and white supremacy in all the spaces they inhabit,” an excerpt of the statement reads. “We acknowledge that the roots of AAPI hate lie in the roots of anti-Blackness. The same disease of racism kills without regard to skin color.”
Other resources at the school, such as the Cross Cultural Center seek to create community and a climate of supportive outreach for students.
When asked how she feels members of non-Asian groups can support the cause, Blohm asks them to be vocal wherever possible.
“Be supportive, stand up to people who call it the ‘China-Virus’,” Blohm said. “Post stuff on social media to bring attention to it, make it relevant.”
Blohm will continue to pursue her degree on a scholarship to Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa alongside her boyfriend this Fall. She hopes to become an athletic trainer for professional sports teams or at the community college level.