Freshmen adapt to COVID-19

With COVID-19 cases increasing on university campuses across the country, many student athletes are wondering when they’ll get to play again.

This question rings true for Augustana freshman players. Because of the pandemic, all fall sports have been postponed until spring. This delay has stirred up many emotions among up-and-coming athletes.

“I am bummed that this first semester can’t be spent on the field, cheering on the Vikings football team,” freshman cheerleader Mary Christensen said. “Having a lack of fall athletics due to COVID is not the most ideal situation.”

This would have been Christensen’s first season as a sideline cheerleader. Navigating being on an athletic team for the first time, especially during a pandemic, is something she will have to get used to.

“I have never actually been in sideline cheer, so I didn’t know what to expect,” Christensen said. “COVID will already create a new normal for us, but I’m excited to see what happens.”

Freshman dancer Sarah Grimes shared her feelings about the season postponement.

“I am now feeling more disappointed over time,” Grimes said. “The first game would’ve been [Sept. 12], and I feel like I’m missing a big part of my freshman college experience.”

Even though they are not performing on the field, Grimes and her team are still making game day memories.

“On days where there would’ve been a football game, we still have some team bonding events,” Grimes said.

Freshman Sarah Grimes practices with her mask on unless she is more than six feet away from her teammates. Photo by Olivia Bertino

Playing with upperclassmen is not the only intimidating thing freshman athletes will face this year. They will also have to learn how to practice with new guidelines.

“Masks have to be on most of the time,” freshman baseball player Kai Taylor said. “Especially when you’re within six feet of each other.”

Taylor said that preseason practices were voluntary.

“We weren’t required to come, but it felt mandatory,” Taylor said. “There weren’t any coaches, though, because they weren’t allowed to be there.”

Grimes also relayed her experience of practicing during a pandemic.

“Practices are very strange,” Grimes said. “It can be difficult to dance with a mask on, but I’m happy that our coach has been working hard with us so we can find ways to practice.”

Many college athletes across the country were worried about how postponement would affect scholarship money.

At Augustana, though, all freshman athletes interviewed said that their scholarships were not negatively affected by fall sport cancellations.

“I am very grateful that I am still able to have my scholarship for doing something I love,” Christensen said.

The dance team practices one less day per week because of COVID-19 restrictions, using Zoom calls as needed when dancers are in quarantine. Photo by Olivia Bertino.

Participating in college athletics can bring about many opportunities for talented players. With sporting events being postponed, some opportunities for the athletes could be taken away. The freshmen all agree, though, that the pandemic will not impact their future goals and aspirations.

“The love for the game reaches farther than a pandemic,” Taylor said.

Taylor also has some worries about moving fall sports to the spring. The athletic schedule is already jam-packed with events on most days of the week. When fall activities are moved to the spring, the schedule could become too busy to manage and track.

“We should be playing right now,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be a nightmare if all sports have to play at the same time.”

Other freshmen disagree, approving of the decision to postpone fall events and add them to the spring schedule. They said that safety should come before athletics.

“It is so important to take COVID-19 seriously,” Grimes said. “It is better for everyone to be healthy and a bit disappointed than having more people become sick.”

Christensen agreed, saying, “I do think that it was a good call to hold off sports for a few months. We need to slow the spread in order for things to get better.”

While it’s uncertain when Augustana freshmen will have their first games, the athletes look forward to performing once again.

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