Student Athletes and Sports Still Reeling in the Effects of COVID

Student+Athletes+and+Sports+Still+Reeling+in+the+Effects+of+COVID

Alyssa Stegura, Reporter

Despite the challenges of COVID with sports, student-athletes are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Student-athletes and sports fans have been impacted tremendously by COVID and, although COVID is still affecting sports, the outlook looks promising for a semi-normal sports season this year.

Student-athletes reflect on how COVID has impacted their passion for the sport that they play.

“Last year being so restricted has made me more passionate for this year and my drive for this sport is so strong now,” said Senior Nursing major and  cheerleading back spot Brooke Stevens.

Students like senior field hockey defender and Psychology/Pre-DPT major Jillian Rogers said COVID has made her more hungry and more determined for field hockey and she cannot wait to compete and use her skills again.

Senior field hockey forward and Early Childhood and Special Education major Madison Klopp has a seen a negative effect on herself since the break with COVID. Klopp said COVID saw her lose passion for the sport and actually quit.

“I have stopped playing due to lack of passion, but I have now taken the position and passion for coaching,” said Klopp, who has found her love and thirst for coaching a local high school field hockey team. That year off from playing sports opened Klopp’s eyes to life without field hockey.

“I felt lost and alone, unsure if I’d ever play again after the time off,” she said.

While some athletes felt more determined after the time off, others felt lost and had to find another passion. When one door closed for Klopp, another wonderful opportunity of coaching came her way. COVID has played a role in the spring 2021 season in lack of athletes returning to sports.

“Last spring, we saw some student-athletes not participate in games due to concerns,” said Charles Edkin, director of athletics at Misericordia. Looking to this season and hoping to put COVID on the back burner, athletes are coming back hungrier to play.

“Athletes are excited to be back; they know the measures in place for safety,” said Edkins.

A major change this season for sports are fans in the stands as many athletes have expressed their excitement for fans to back in the stands.

“I think it’s incredible; seeing fans cheering is the best feeling in the worland it’s amazing to feel that again,” said senior Nursing major, Nicholas Neidlinger. Students like Rogers are thrilled fans are back.

“I’m very grateful for fans back, especially when I look at the stands and see my family and friends cheering me on,” said Rogers. Not having fans felt more like practice for student-athletes.

Students and parents are expressing so much gratitude to being back at sporting events.

“Parents have sent me calls and emails of appreciation; they are happy to see their athletes again,” said Edkins. He expressed how the decision for returning fans to the stands was a long process, but the mask mandate for all has made it easier for a safe return to normalcy. He said everyone appreciates sporting events even more now.

Bringing back fans was not one person’s decision, but involved man.

“The Middle Atlantic Conference had meetings which involved the presidents and directors of athletics,” said Edkins. Local CDC guidelines and NCAA doctor’s advice were taken into consideration.

“Knowing all 18 schools are in different areas, we had to be aware of the changes,” said Edkins. In the summer, he and the board of athletics decided to have fans for both outdoor and indoor events.

This was not a one entity decision as it took multiple layers of people to create a safe environment to celebrate sports while being safe. They did this by “three layers: directors office, CDC, NCAA guidelines, masking for all spectators indoors, and recommending masks for outdoors,” said Edkins.

COVID is currently affecting teams in many ways as masks are required indoors.

“Everyone on the sidelines and coaches have to mask,” said Edkins. Another change is the requiring of weekly COVID tests for unvaccinated athletes and a test for symptomatic vaccinated athletes.

“If we have an outbreak, we may have to put a team on pause, so we are operating on a semi-normal but not normal season,” Edkins added.

Some protocols teams are practicing are simple hand washing often and thoroughly, and making sure athlete are hydrated.

The cheerleading squad rules are “handwashing daily, taking vitamins, mask wearing indoors, and strongly encouraging everyone to get vaccinated on our team to do our part to minimize the spread,” said Stevens.

The field hockey team is following protocols set up by the university.

“As part of athletics, it is our goal to keep everyone safe and protected,” said Rogers.

Football team coaches are setting the rules and strategies to keep everyone safe.

“Last spring, we were required to wear masks all practice and lifts and be weekly tested. While restrictions are less now, we still are keeping safe,” said punter Neidlinger.

“The important thing to do on campus is to mask indoors, to participate as safely as possible and to get the vaccine. We ask athletes to be diligent and careful with decisions and do the right thing,” said Edkins.

“Please be aware of the protocols given by the university and enjoy watching us play again. We are excited and grateful to be back,” said Rogers.