Last school year, COVID-19 took a huge toll on athletics. Sports teams were forced to change their routines to follow new guidelines presented by their university’s athletic department and the athletic conferences for higher education institutions. This altered the athletes’ training schedules as practice start dates were pushed back, seasons were temporarily put on hold until the following year, and the constant worry of positive COVID tests coming back that would lead to a postponed, canceled game or 14-day quarantine.
At Virginia Wesleyan, the pandemic affected the athletes mentally. Junior Jaron Berry, a forward for the Men’s soccer team provided this comment, “For me, personally, mentally COVID last year was very difficult for me. The season was just difficult because last year it was weird like practices were not the same, we ran on a schedule, and it was difficult to really get a rhythm and I feel like that really showed within the season.”
Now it is a new year and the pandemic is still here, but athletics has returned to some normalcy with fewer COVID regulations in place. At VWU sporting events, spectators are still required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status and for outdoor sports, masks are to be worn if not sitting six feet apart from others.
Currently, there are no capacity level limits that have been implemented. “Right now there’s no conversation about that. The only protocol we have in place is our masking protocol and so inside, masking for all individuals regardless of vaccination status,” Virginia Wesleyan University Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Andrea Hoover-Erbig said.
For many athletes, getting to compete in their regular season is probably the most exciting part about coming back to campus this year. “To be on a regular schedule I think it really shows that these past couple weeks in these past couple games, I’d like to be in a good rhythm. To be able to bond and hang with the team outside of the field and I really get to know one another and that translates to the field and we’re playing better and we’re playing well,” Berry said.
Athletes are able to practice as a full team without having to be in a bubble of 10 or less at certain times of the day and without masks if teams are practicing outside or they have a full vaccination status on the roster. With that, athletes are able to get back into the normal routine of things to prepare themselves for the season. Furthermore, athletic departments are now able to prepare, plan and execute games and seasons in a more simple manner than last year.
Being back to semi-normal as masks are still worn inside brings back the energy and effect that college sports have on the campus community. Sports without crowds was something out of the ordinary, but that is different this year. Sport fans are now allowed to attend their favorite sporting events, they are able to see their favorite players and most importantly enjoy the game with family and friends. Currently, live streams are still being used to provide fans at home with a chance to get in on the action.
Hoover expressed to the Chronicle that providing the best experience for fans is a goal, but there are sports to lend themselves as an easier road to have them live streamed. “I think there are a lot of things that go into equipment but ideally we want to provide our student-athletes with the best possible experience and for a lot of them their families are watching on the live stream,” Hoover-Erbig said
“We’re not totally back to normal, but I think it’s just nice to have spectators in our stands and to have our fall sports competing at the right time of year,” Hoover-Erbig said. “It’s really wonderful to see student-athletes back out there and parents coming to see their kids play; It’s fun to see that.”
Time will tell if athletics get to finish out the year as normally as possible without the effects of the pandemic’s new variant that has come about these past weeks, but, nonetheless, the Marlin campus is excited to be back and are ready for some awesome games this year. “I pride myself on being an optimistic person so hopefully we move forward in a bit of a better place than we are now,” Hoover-Erbig said.
By Shirell Washington