Playing Through the Pandemic
In the midst of a global pandemic, it is hard to find an area of life that hasn’t been affected. Many students at The University of Alabama (UA) have noticed COVID-19 interfering with what Title Town is best known for: sports.
Sports teams across campus have been profoundly impacted by the virus. For the Alabama hockey team, the pandemic has had devastating effects. Since the team plays in Pelham, 57 miles away from campus, travel and local restrictions have made it difficult to have any sense of normalcy for the season. Even practices have been halted for the time being.
“When it’s in a different town, and you have to technically travel to get there, it’s a little bit different in that the school is a lot more hesitant; the rink also has their own specific rules,” said Trey Howes, a junior finance major and the president of the hockey team.
These multiple sets of rules for safe socially distanced interactions, in particular, have caused problems for the team.
Howes said the pandemic has made it hard to get back into the swing of things. Due to these restrictions and an abundance of caution, Alabama Hockey decided to cancel the season entirely.
“It just doesn’t make sense financially to pay for the practicing and the coaching and all that stuff when we would only have around ten home games,” he said. “We wouldn’t end up getting that back.”
The wristband student athletes receive once they have been scanned and cleared to go to practice.
Of course, not every season has been canceled. A great many measures are in place throughout the UA Athletic community to keep everyone safe.
Jorja MacRae, a junior exercise science major and the co-captain of the women’s crew rowing team, said the precautions that are put in place help her feel safe in the middle of a dangerous pandemic.
“We have to get scanned in every morning,” she said.“We get little wristbands put on once we’ve been scanned. We get COVID tested every week. We wear masks all the time. The boats and the handles and everything we touch every day is bleached and cleaned every day. If we are practicing inside, all the doors are open, and we are always six feet apart.”
MacRae said she and the other women on the crew team feel safer from the pandemic because of the vigorous precautions that are taken, more so than if she was not involved in sports. This is especially true due to her access to regular testing.
This feeling of security is one positive thing for athletes that have had to sacrifice things since the pandemic. Like so many others, student-athletes are hopeful that an end to the pandemic is in sight.
Many college students are feeling the loneliness that is associated with COVID-19. Members of the athletic teams are no exception to this. The social aspect of sports is incredibly important to any team and it has been massively affected by COVID-19.
Howes said he is anxious to see the end of the pandemic and its restrictions.
“Me personally, I’m chomping at the bit to get back on the ice. I know we have so much good stuff planned for when we’re allowed to come back,” he said. “I think a lot of it will help bring more attention, more fans, and more fun to the program, and I am so excited for that.”
There will likely be lasting implications in the sports world from the COVID-19 pandemic. Not all of them are bad.
For example, Strobing has noticed an increased interest in tennis since the onset of the coronavirus due to the socially distanced nature of the sport.
Howes said he’s excited about the increased hygiene that is now more present in contact sports like hockey.
But fans, athletes and coaches alike are looking forward to the eventual end of reduced-capacity sporting events, masks and stay-at-home orders.
Juliana Strobing, a senior in the Accelerated Master’s Program for public administration and the president of the club tennis team, is looking forward to the end of COVID-19.
“I’ve always loved getting together with the team outside of practice. The tennis team has basically been my family the entire time I’ve been in college,” Strobing said.“I met my boyfriend and some of my best friends on the team. It has always been the highlight of my college career, and it breaks my heart that we can’t have any social events outside of practice.”
Juliana Strobing, the president of the club tennis team, at their weekly practice at the UA recreational tennis courts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had tangible effects on the Alabama Athletic programs, but through the intensive efforts of the University of Alabama, student-athletes have most importantly been able to stay safe and healthy while minimizing risk to themselves and their community.