This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published December 24, 2020
Jackson Bisson took the difficult circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and turned them into an opportunity to improve as an athlete. Jackson was one of two goalies who played for the Valley Regional boys’ soccer team this year, and he’s also a reliable face-off man and midfielder with the Warriors’ boys’ lacrosse squad.
Like many athletes, Jackson had a tumultuous year in 2020. In the spring, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) canceled all sports for the season. Then in the fall, the CIAC took a measured approach to determining the viability of the season.
Ultimately, Jackson was able to join his Valley teammates on the soccer pitch. The Warriors’ season was cut short just prior to the Shoreline Conference Tournament due to a rise in COVID-19 cases at the high school. Still, Jackson and his squad turned in a successful showing by earning the No. 3 seed in the bracket.
“As a team, the way we played in the midst of a pandemic, be the No. 3 seed, and be that close to playing in the tournament was great to witness and be a part of,” Jackson says. “In my 8th-grade year, our John Winthrop team went undefeated until our last game. I knew we had a good chance this year with that class being seniors. I had high hopes, and we only lost a couple of close, hard-fought games. I think we set a high standard this year for the teams coming in next year.”
Even without the postseason, it felt good for Jackson to get back out on the field this fall, especially since he was in the best shape of his career.
“It was definitely hard missing out on lacrosse and having no postseason in soccer this year. The one thing quarantine did for me was give me a lot of time to get in shape. I ended up losing 30 pounds. I wanted to use COVID more as an opportunity, instead of dwelling on it,” says Jackson, who lives in Chester. “I have a gym at home that I was able to use during the quarantine. I was very fortunate for that. I also did a lot of running and cut back on some foods. That had a lot to do with losing the weight. In May and June, I ran 200 miles. I can contribute more now, because running is an important aspect of soccer and lacrosse.”
Jackson started playing the goalkeeper position during his 8th-grade season. However, this year Jackson had an opportunity to expand his game by contributing for Valley on the offensive end of the field.
“Even though there isn’t a lot of running involved as a goalie, I felt I had more endurance. In practice, I was able to take more shots and not get tired. I felt more agile and able to make more high-quality saves, which I don’t feel like I was able to do in the past,” Jackson says. “This year, I clocked more minutes on the field than I did in goal. That was nice, because I got to contribute to the team in more ways than one. I started playing goalie in middle school, because I was worried I wasn’t in shape enough to be a striker anymore. Having that experience on the field helped me understand the game better.”
Jackson feels that he tapped into skills that he hadn’t used in quite a while during his senior season. By playing both in the goal and on the attack, Jackson gained a deeper understanding of how to play each position.
“When I began playing soccer, I was definitely more of an offensive player. I played offense and midfield. Once I started playing goalie in 8th grade, it sort of came naturally to me. That was good, because I was able to build on that,” says Jackson. “When I’m in goal, I tend to be more of a wait-and-watch to see what they’re going to do to try and score on me. One-on-one, I will step out and try to take the ball, but a lot of times, I try to read to see what the other guy is going to do.”
Now that the soccer season has concluded, Jackson is hoping to see what all of his hard work yields on the lacrosse field this spring. Jackson feels that a lot of the things he’s learned as a soccer player transfer to lacrosse and vice versa. Of all the skills that he’s honed, Jackson believes the ability to communicate is the most important.
“I think that doing one sport helps with the other. The style is different. Lacrosse is a much higher-scoring game than soccer,” Jackson says. “The biggest aspect is the communication. Being able to communicate in one sport beefs up your skill to do it in another.”
Jackson takes his communication skills seriously. As a senior, Jackson knows that his younger teammates are going to look to him for guidance.
“I think coming in as a senior, I knew a lot of my teammates well. They were able to come to me. We had some tough times in the middle of the season. It was nice for me to help rally them and make sure the morale was high,” says Jackson. “My job as a goalie is to help rally the team from the back of the field. I was able to utilize that on and off the field. It wasn’t just me, but all the seniors. We had to make sure that we were playing every game like it was our last, because we didn’t know which game could have been.”
Valley boys’ soccer Head Coach Mick Fearon respects the way that Jackson has handled himself throughout his career, particularly this year. Jackson made sure that he was always ready to contribute in whatever role Coach Fearon needed him to.
“Jackson is a very capable keeper. He always gave a good effort at practice, so that he was ready when the need arose. He made nine saves in our last game of the year against Coginchaug under a lot of pressure. If you practice well enough, when the opportunity comes, you aren’t a deer in headlights,” says Fearon. “I know he’s a big lacrosse player. He’s their face-off guy, and he works really hard in that aspect, too. He really helped out at home games, and he’s a really bright kid—in the National Honor Society and good in academics. I would say that he’s an all-around student-athlete. He fits that mold.”
As for the future, Jackson is mostly focused on the spring season and hopes that the Warriors will have a chance to compete. After that, Jackson hopes to continue playing lacrosse at the collegiate level.
“COVID made this last year difficult, but the way our team rallied around each other to come out with a good season was really exciting. I’m really excited to see what we can do in the spring with the lacrosse team,” Jackson says. “Hopefully, we never have to experience something like this again, but we still capitalized on the opportunity. Despite the strangeness, we innovated and approached the problem with solutions that allowed us to play. This isn’t how I wanted my senior year to go, but I’m happy it’s not so weird that I wouldn’t get to participate in sports, because that’s a major aspect of my life outside of school.”