This year may look different on and off the field, but William Jewell College’s athletics is finding ways to make it work. Wearing a mask during workouts may not be ideal, but many student-athletes said they will do whatever they need to still have a season.
All sports are feeling the impact of COVID-19 right now, with some more than others. The fall sports of football, soccer and volleyball will have a spring season. Fall cross country, golf, tennis, swimming and indoor track and field are able to continue competing in the fall with some minor adjustments, depending on the sport. Baseball and softball are only allowed intrasquad competition during the fall with a regular spring season. The Great Lakes Valley Conference has not yet released information on basketball and wrestling seasons.
Regardless of the sport, all student-athletes at Jewell must consent to being tested for COVID-19 at any time and must wear a mask during practices, workouts, weights and conditioning unless told otherwise according to institutional guidelines in Operation Safe Campus. Golf, for example, is a low-risk sport that does not require its athletes to wear masks, as long as they are outside and socially distanced. Football is a high-risk sport, so athletes must wear a mask at all times, even if they are outside and socially distanced.
This week the Mabee Center opened up for teams to begin weights programs. All athletes are required to wear a mask at all times, and teams are split up into time slots to allow social distancing. The new powerlifting team is already used to these rules, since they started using the weight room before others because of the nature of the sport. Calvin Heit, first-year Oxbridge: Institutions & Policy major, said not much is different except for the mask requirement.
“The only other difference is we all have our own racks and can only side spot for each other. When we need any equipment we just bring it back to our rack, but we have to wipe down everything before putting it back,” Heit said.
After talking to athletes from seven different sports, they all had their own personal views on wearing a mask during workouts and practices. Some don’t have a problem at all since they are already used to it. Others, like Payton Totzke, sophomore nursing major and softball player, said wearing a mask to workout is “booty cheeks” and expressed her strong dislike for masks during workouts. However, the majority of athletes interviewed said wearing a mask was not a major hindrance until it came time to run or do conditioning. Many athletes cited difficulty getting air in when they are already heavily breathing and the extra sweat that builds up as reasonings for their dislike of masks.
Regardless, all athletes said they wear their mask when they have to in order to protect themselves, their teammates and their seasons.
“We’re one of the few sports that’s been blessed to still have a season so I’ll do whatever I need to to keep that,” said Hannah Balch, junior nursing major and swimmer.
Surprisingly, none of that athletes interviewed were worried about a teammate testing positive and spreading it to them. Seniors Tori Farr, elementary education and Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry major and softball center fielder, and Markeis Williams, psychological science major and football outside linebacker, were more concerned that they would have it and give it to someone else on the team and have the season cut short.
The most important thing is to act quickly if someone does test positive. Student athletes may find reassurance in the protocols implemented by the training staff.
Many coaches talked to their players about being smart and using wise judgment in their social lives, specifically over the Labor Day weekend.
Coaches and trainers have also been even more encouraging and supportive than usual and let their athletes know they are there for them. They understand the impact a global pandemic can have on one’s mental health and always check in on their players.
Max Wheeler, sophomore business administration major and tennis player, said the tennis team and coach still try to have fun in practice despite the new rules.
“Taking things day by day and focusing on the little things in life helps us keep our morale high,” Wheeler said.
The track and field coaches expressed similar outlooks on the situation. Rylie Bandt, sophomore biology major, said her coaches emphasize increased communication because the masks conceal facial expression.
Whether athletes think wearing a mask during workouts is “booty cheeks” or not, Jewell students must all come together and make the most out of this year. Without each and every athlete playing their part in slowing the spread of COVID-19, Jewell would not be able to have a successful athletic program this year.