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COVID Complications Learning COVID-SAfe competition, and looking at records that the virus halted from being broken

By Collin Atwood

Over the past year, everyone across the globe has been trying to cope with the idea of remodeling their meaning of a normal life.

It was never normal to be surprised when you saw someone without a mask or to feel the need to sanitize your hands every time you touched something. It’s not typical to have to remember to bring a mask in the store as if it were a wallet or set of keys.

As time goes on, people start to realize that forgetting the faces of friends and family has become pretty normal. The spread of the coronavirus has left a permanent mark on everyone in one way or another and nothing compares to the impact that the virus has had on people’s lives.

Normalcy at Springfield College can be identified in many ways. The college’s Humanics philosophy, relation to the YMCA and its outstanding health sciences programs are all notable ingredients that make up normal life on Alden Street.

The one thing missing from that list and a highly respected part of Springfield College is its athletics. There isn’t a better way to define normal at the College than its sports.

About one in every three students at Springfield is a member of one of the 26 Div. III teams that the school offers. Even students that aren’t a member of a sports team still have Springfield College sports in their life.

Many of the majors at Springfield use the sports teams to get experience for their future career. Sports journalism, athletic training and sports management are just a few examples of majors on campus that benefit from sports.

When sports were cancelled on March 12, 2020, the College lost a part of its identity and so did most of the students.

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As the 2020 fall semester began, teams slowly started to get back into their practices in preparation for their spring seasons. Of course, though, things weren’t the way they used to be.

The only way to hold any sort of practice was to have teams split up into separate pods that would practice at different times. This was less than ideal for the players and coaches because it made it hard to build chemistry until full practices began.

“If a freshman wasn’t in a pod with a senior, you didn’t really get to know anyone in that pod,” said Kate Bowen, head coach of the softball team at Springfield College.

Being in pods also meant that teams had to figure out different ways to practice and get everyone involved. The men’s volleyball team usually practiced by scrimmaging each other, but for a while that wasn’t allowed.

“We train typically by playing the game and putting different variations on the game, but we couldn’t play the game, so we had to play small games and do drills,” said Charlie Sullivan, head coach of the men’s volleyball team.

Zoom was also used by most teams, but after a full day of classes behind a screen, teams were longing for the opportunity to see each other.

“Zoom got old quickly. I'd rather be in person and see them at practice,” Bowen said.

Getting to the point where teams could compete again wasn’t easy, but that wasn’t the hard part. Now that sports are underway again, it is up to the teams to make sure that their shortened seasons don’t vanish once again..

It takes multiple screenings and tests until Kevin Wood, Associate Director of Athletics at Springfield College, is able to send the “all clear” email to the opposing schools staff indicating that they are ready to play.

“It’s definitely quite the process from one week to the next,” Wood said.

Every single day is a challenge for these athletes. If just one person tests positive, then the whole team will miss that week's game and possibly the following week’s game if the spread is that severe.

Even when a student gets out of quarantine, he or she still has to get back into game shape.

“When the team would come out of quarantine, they have to do what’s called a return to play protocol. That’s a five-to-seven day window of sort of getting back into game ready shape,” Wood said.

Never before have players had to watch who they hang out with because they had a responsibility to the team to not get sick.

There is a lot of stress on student-athletes as is and now they have to worry about the people around them too. One mistake could mean missing half of the season, so everyone needs to do their part.

“We take this very, very seriously, both the COVID piece of it and the student-athlete health and safety, as far as being in game shape,” Wood said.

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If the teams are lucky enough to have a game, there are some modifications that have to be made to each sport. None of them are usual, but these athletes will do whatever is necessary to get some part of their normal life back.

One of the main changes in softball is that there are only 14 people allowed in the dugout at one time. Tape is used to show where people can stand outside of the dugout.

“Usually the coaches are all together and we’re talking during the game, but now one coach is six feet away and the other one is behind sometimes...communicating in the dugout has been interesting,” Bowen said.

A lot of normal celebratory traditions have been eliminated from sports as well. They try to limit their high fives between teammates, there are no end of the game handshakes or high fives with the opposing team and no gathering at home plate after a home run.

For the Springfield College softball team, they have decided to get together and give the other team a friendly wave no matter the result, rather than giving high fives.

A big change for the volleyball team is that they cannot huddle up between rallies. “That’s a real natural tendency in our sport to do in between every rally, so that’s not good,” Sullivan said. Other modifications are the benches of each team are separated by the court and they no longer switch sides.

Athletes and coaches have been expected to add to their list of responsibilities because of COVID. No one’s job is the same anymore, not even the athletic trainers at Springfield College have the same responsibilities.

The new responsibilities of an athletic trainer at Springfield College includes an airborne pathogens training, making sure CDC protocols are being followed, tracking down student-athletes who get COVID-19 and making sure students take the appropriate time off before returning to their team.

The implications being made to their jobs are causing them to spread themselves thin. Their job is also a lot harder to do because they are only allowed to be within six feet of an athlete for 15 minutes.

“We essentially walk in the door some days at 6 a.m. and start covering practices and we don’t finish up until really nine or 10 at night,” said Cameron Siciliano, Head Football and Men’s Lacrosse Athletic Trainer.

The normal routine for athletic trainers would be to cover the practices in a shorter time span, but now practices are spread out throughout the day which means that the days are longer for the trainers.

These new modifications also impact the visiting teams as well. The only reason a player on another team can use Springfield College facilities is if it is an extreme emergency. “We are there only for emergency care,” Siciliano said.

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Everyone has had to make sacrifices to get back to their normal life. On the Springfield College campus, people are just grateful for the opportunity to get their lives back, no matter the implications. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

Kate Sarnacki, a senior attacker on the women’s lacrosse team, has every reason to be frustrated with the effects that COVID has had on her athletic career.

Sarnacki’s collegiate lacrosse career was off to a great start. In her freshman year, she scored 31 goals and then doubled that in her sophomore year. 62 goals in a single season put her two goals away from breaking the single season goal record at Springfield College.

She was on track to have maybe the best women’s lacrosse career at Springfield College ever.

By the end of her sophomore year, she was 97 goals away from breaking the all-time record for career goals. After a strong start to her junior year, her chances of catching that record dropped to zero when she found out the rest of the season was cancelled.

Most people would let this haunt them at night, but this was not her biggest concern.

“The goal and all that we care about is just being together on the field and getting the chance to wear the jersey and play,” Sarnacki said.

Personal goals can’t contend with her drive to just play. That is why sports at Springfield College are so important. It is a part of everyone's daily life on campus and members of the Pride are proud to have the chance to represent the college again.

No modifications to the game or tragedies that COVID has caused will stop these determined students and coaches from doing what has to be done in order for games to be played on Alden Street.

“We’re just lucky to have gotten something because we weren’t convinced that we were going to have anything at all so we all just feel very lucky,” Sarnacki said.

Having sports at Springfield College is part of what makes the school so special and athletics runs deep in the history of the college. The current members of the Pride are grateful that they have the chance to add to that history.

Created By
Collin Atwood
Appreciate

Credits:

Jack Margaros, Springfield Athletics