By Erik Kjer, News Editor Originally published in Issue 8, Volume 33 of The University Register on February 26, 2021
Like many other activities, the format of Morris’s athletics has been radically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, but unlike other activities it can not be moved online. For athletes, this has meant a condensed or delayed season, and a pervasive air on uncertainty. Amid dramatically increasing coronavirus infections in mid-November, Governor Walz announced a suspension of all indoor sports for the rest of November and most of December. Now college teams have returned to practices and traveling, and the University Register spoke with an active student athlete who wished to remain anonymous.
“It has been a little different this season, but I’m glad to have a season and not be completely cancelled,” they said.
During the season, student athletes are tested twice a week and are closely monitored for any signs of infection. Athletes’ body temperatures are recorded and a survey is conducted to identify symptoms before practices. Teams are typically broken into multiple pods, these groups of athletes practice together and try to isolate themselves from other teammates. Physical distancing is practiced whenever possible, and masks are worn at all times, with the only exception being when some athletes are actively competing.
Perhaps the most obvious change in sports this year has been the vacuum in which they take place. State guidelines have permitted observers at practices and competitions since January 10, but audiences typically remain absent.
“We don’t have any spectators; only the athletes on their coaches are allowed in the stadium,” the anonymous athlete said.
The absence of crowds is certainly visible to competitors.
“With the lack of crowds it gets very quiet when we’re competing and it’s very strange. It is a little sad, but at the end of the day, if that’s what’s going to allow us to compete and whatnot and it’s worth it in the end,” the athlete said.
Although students are allowed to compete, the atmosphere has certainly changed.
“The experience is to go compete and have a bunch of people cheer you on,” said anonymous, “try to break some personal records and whatnot, and not having that experience, especially with some of the freshmen, it would seem a little odd.”
Despite these precautions and a gradual decline in COVID-19 infections within Minnesota, nothing appears to be set in stone.
“Our coach gives us a general idea, but says to never think of that as the final plan,” the athlete said.
Although athletes are still allowed to compete, most face a season that’s been significantly shortened when compared to previous years. While the pandemic is far from over, it looks like college sports will continue for the foreseeable future. Restrictions meant to slow the spread seem to be working, at least for Morris students.
“None of our athletes have tested positive, which is a good thing,” said anonymous.
The arrival of spring brings with it a return to outdoor activities and a lower risk of infection.
“I do feel safe just because we are taking those COVID tests,” said anonymous.