Orders, mandates and declarations given in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are impacting members of the Albion College community at virtually every level. Those who are involved in Albion College athletics hold no special exception to the newly enacted COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Changes to competition schedules
On July 30, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) announced its decision to suspend all fall sports until January of 2021. Because of this, Albion College student athletes are barred from any athletic competition with off-campus opponents until competitive sports resume next year. MIAA officials remain hopeful that fall sports will be able to compete in the spring.
The postponement of athletics has left the Albion community missing the anticipation and excitement of Albion College sporting events.
“Homework has surprisingly been not very prevalent during this first module in my case, so when I am just lying in my bed with nothing really to do, visions of Albion athletics can’t help but dance in my head,” said Ian Lee, a sophomore from Marshall, Mich. and an avid sports fan, via email.“In those moments, though, I remember that this is all for the best in the long run and that spring is closer than I may think.”
Sports practices are allowed, but with some regulations
Despite the postponement of competition, fall sports at Albion College are still permitted to practice. The only stipulation is that each practicing team must comply with additional COVID-19 health and safety protocols. A few of the new practice guidelines include physical distancing, mask wearing and practicing in pods of nine or less for the first two weeks of the season.
“Practices are going to be way different,” said Albion College head football coach, Dustin Beurer, via email. “Masks and protective shields have been ordered. Social distancing needs to be done as much as possible. Coaches must also use electronic whistles and wear a mask at all times. Fortunately, I have a voice that carries, which will serve me a solid purpose for once in my life instead of getting me in trouble.”
Jayden Vanmaurick, a junior from Holland, Mich., has noticed many differences in his cross country practices due to COVID-19 regulations.
The cross country team’s practices are divided into separate practice pods. One half of the team’s runners attend early morning practices while the other half of the team practices in the evenings. Runners are expected to only run with those in their pods and to social distance whenever possible. They also wear masks during warm-ups and cool-downs.
“We have to wear masks when we do our warm-up drills and cool-down drills, but not for our main runs,” said Vanmaurick via email. “Anyone running in the early mornings also has to wear a reflector belt for safety purposes, so cars will be able to see them when it’s dark out. In general, we have to social distance both during warm-ups and cool-downs as well as only run in pairs during our runs and remain socially distant.” .
Eric Scott, Albion’s women’s soccer coach, highlights the drastic change to move this year’s fall soccer season to Spring 2021.
“The biggest difference is [this season’s] time frame and the movement of our competitions to the spring and how that impacts our intensity and pacing of training,” said Scott. “Normally, you have a game to prepare for, and that requires a different type of training or practice and periodization. But with no external evaluation moments, we need to find ways to gauge how we are doing.”
Even though things will look different, Albion College’s head football coach, Dustin Beurer, and his players are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to be back together on the field.
“In my conversations with our players, I feel we all agree we just hope we can get back to some type of normal and being able to finally get back together on the field will provide some of that feeling,” said Beurer via email. “I miss having everyone together and working towards a common goal. I miss our team meetings where we get better, but also have fun. I miss my individual in-person meetings with my players where I can help them personally and emotionally. I’m big on relationships, and it really isn’t the same virtually.”
Albion’s athletic training department has also been largely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. This is in part due to the NCAA’s new COVID regulations. Because of the NCAA’s new health and safety guidelines, the college’s athletic trainers have had to develop new hydration methods and practice schedules for all student athletes.
The recently redeveloped hydration methods mandate all student athletes be given their own, individual, water bottle. The new sports practice schedules split teams up into smaller practice groups, also known as practice pods.
In addition to navigating the NCAA’s health and safety requirements, Albion’s athletic trainers have also been doing all of the student athlete’s COVID-testing as a part of the college’s Together Safely protocols.
“It’s been a long five months preparing for all of this and, with how fluid everything has been, we are just trying to make the most of it and grind it out,” said Andy Lawrence, head athletic trainer, via email.
Many student athletes are not excited about the changes to athletics and want a normal competitive season. However, many are working to make the best out of the year’s unprecedented circumstances.
“It’s going to be an unorthodox season but having practices is better than not having them at all,” said Vanmaurick. “If anything, I feel like this season will be more centered on bonding and spending time with our teammates and coaches as well as just physically preparing and bettering ourselves for a very competitive spring season.”
Despite the MIAA suspension of fall sports and off-campus competitions, Albion student-athletes have found ways to compete on-campus. This coming semester, Albion’s men’s and women’s tennis teams, cross country teams and volleyball team are holding intersquad competitions.
“Our team is really excited to get to team practices, and our goals are centered around growing each day,” said Kristin Slamer-de St. Aubin, Albion College’s head volleyball coach. “Since we are only practicing this fall, I am sure things will feel different later this month when we would normally be playing multiple matches a week. However, using this fall as a practice-only segment with some intersquad matches will enable us to make huge gains.”
Beurer echoes this sentiment on behalf of the football team.
“I am so excited to be back with the boys,” said Beurer. “I can’t wait for our first workout, and the energy that will be there and working to sustain that energy through our practice opportunities without knowing what could come at us next.”