Volleyball Club engagement steady during COVID-19

Although sporting events are postponed through Dec. 31, Augustana students still have many opportunities to participate in extracurricular athletics. One of these athletic opportunities is Volleyball Club, headed by senior Nathan Cassady and sophomore Tessa Whiting.

“For the past few years, we’ve had two of us who co-run it together,” Cassady said. “As one of us gets older, we find a younger person to help run just to continue it.”

Cassady has a long history with Volleyball Club and has been an active member since his freshman year in 2017.

“It’s very casual,” Cassady said. “We just get together and play. We have a lot of people who haven’t played volleyball before, so I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a high-skilled club. We try and give some new players tips on how to improve and enjoy their time.”

The camaraderie of the players is one of the main reasons Cassady enjoys his time in the club.

“A lot of the regulars, we just try to joke around with each other and have fun,” Cassady said. 

Whiting also joined her freshman year. Her volleyball background is one of the main reasons she decided to join when she arrived at Augustana.

“I’m kind of obsessed with volleyball,” Whiting said. “After I graduated high school, I knew I wasn’t going to be on any college teams. I really enjoy intramurals and thought I would try it out. I went to volleyball club every week last year. It’s super fun.”

The two agree that because of COVID-19 precautions, their positions require more responsibility. Since they practice in the Elmen, they follow the regular protocols and take extra precautions to make sure they can play and keep the players safe.

“We try to take responsible action,” Whiting said. “We require masks as per the Elmen rules, but Nathan and I have felt it’s responsible to create some sort of spreadsheet that has everyone who comes on a given night. That way, if someone comes down with something, we can contact trace or at least figure out if anyone is at risk for anything. We haven’t really had any issues enforcing the policy.”

The club has had to take a step back when it comes to public competition and entering tournaments. They are focusing more on playing against each other and building team relationships.

“This year, with everything going on, we are trying to stick to just practices,” Cassady said. “We have only entered into one tournament in Sioux Falls. I don’t know if we are going to continue doing that.”

Going to tournaments is one of the highlights of participating in the club, but the pandemic has created some complications in attending these events. The club attended one Harrisburg tournament last month.

“It was definitely weird,” Cassady said. “We were the only team wearing masks, except for one other person in the gym. It was fun to get out and play for the day, though.”

The club has had consistent numbers when it comes to player attendance.

“We actually have had a few more people coming this year than last year,” Cassady said. “It’s cool to see how our numbers are growing and are still pretty good this year.”

Whiting said she believes the club provides a fun environment for stressed students, which could be a reason why the numbers have seen an increase.

“It’s provided me a lot of support on campus,” Whiting said. “I think we provide a stress break or a homework break. You don’t have to be doing something on a Tuesday night when you can go out and be active.”

One of these players, freshman Zoe Shriner, agrees that Volleyball Club can be a great homework destresser. 

“It’s very fun and fast-paced,” Shriner said. “When we get there, we warm up, do drills and play. It’s very high energy the whole time, so it’s fun.”

Shriner also views the club as a great way to train for intramurals. 

“I’ve never played volleyball before,” Shriner said. “I just wanted to join because I like volleyball a lot and participating in intramurals. I wanted to use the club to get better.”

The club is accessible to players of all years and skill levels. Cassady, Whiting and Shriner encourage all interested players to participate.

“Playing volleyball or learning how to play is a great way for people to find and meet people who are interested in the same things and make new friends across campus,” Whiting said. “I know that I wouldn’t have met all the people I did last year if I didn’t go to Volleyball Club.”

Leadership positions in Volleyball Club are not based on seniority but on the idea of continuing on the club’s legacy.

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