Article and Video by Jillian McGann
A lot about daily life has changed because of the coronavirus and for Ole Miss students, club sports is no different.
Many Ole Miss students play club sports to stay active, be on a team, and play their sport competitively. This semester things are looking quite different for these students.
For some clubs, practices have been pushed back completely until things are closer to normal. This is the case for the Ole Miss Hockey club team.
Hockey club president, John Witwer, said that all games and practices have been cancelled until at least January.
“Spending $500 on a sheet of ice when we can only have ten participants is not financially viable,” Witwer said.
Cancelling practices and games has come at a toll for the hockey team.
“We had a few prospective hockey players not come to school and take a gap year because of the online classes,” Witwer said, “and lots of hockey players who arrived on campus decided not to play when they heard that we basically don’t have a season.”
With membership down, the team is worried about the South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference Championships that are scheduled for March. Last year the Ole Miss Hockey club won the SECHC championships.
Even if they have the members to participate in the championships, Witwer is worried that without support from campus recreation and changing guidelines they won’t be good enough in the spring to take home the SECHC championship again.
“I’m sure [campus recreation] have been doing their best to help us out with the guidelines they’ve been given by the university,” Witwer said, “But these guidelines have rendered practicing and playing our sport almost completely impossible.”
The current guidelines for Ole Miss club sports include indoor practices of ten or less participants and outdoor practices of 25 or less participants. For scrimmaging or game-like drills, a mask is required. Equipment is sanitized after each practice and physical distancing is required when possible.
Even the clubs that can practice are having a hard time being productive under the current guidelines.
Ole Miss Men’s Club Volleyball is finding it difficult to practice what they need to for their sport.
President, Sabyius Boggan said that with the limited number of people at practice and being restricted to only doing certain drills until recently, practicing hasn’t been as good as it should be.
“Before we were able to scrimmage with masks on, it was hard to do drills because [campus recreation] said the ball could not cross the net multiple times or it was considered scrimmaging even if there were just three people on the court,” Boggan said. “The whole point of volleyball is for the ball to go over the net multiple times so it made it really difficult to practice.”
Boggan is hopeful that the club will be able to resume normal practicing and traveling in the spring though. As of right now, the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation has the national tournament scheduled for April 2021.
“What I miss most about pre-corona volleyball is really the traveling though,” Boggan said. “It is the most rewarding experience to travel and see how your hard work in practice has paid off.”
Boggan said the one thing that the corona virus has improved was membership.
“If anything, it has made more guys want to show up [to practice] since their normal lives are basically cancelled,” he said.
The Ole Miss Women’s Club Lacrosse team has also found it difficult to practice but thinks campus recreation has done everything they can do to help.
“At first it was frustrating being given so many rules to follow,” President Josie Kinder said. “However, I feel like campus recreation has done a great job allowing us to play the sport we love while being safe during this pandemic.”
The women’s lacrosse team used to practice four days a week before COVID but now has cut it down to two practices and a day of conditioning.
“[Campus recreation] could have shut us down,” Kinder said, “ and I am so glad that they didn’t.”
Campus recreation has banned all travel for sport clubs until spring semester at least. Kinder is hopeful that things will get better in the spring and traveling can resume.
“This fall season we weren’t able to travel or play in tournaments like we planned to,” Kinder said. “We have a lot of freshman on the team so it has been a priority to keep them engaged and excited for what the season normally looks like.”
Club lacrosse is finding that membership hasn’t been dropping just like the Ole Miss Men’s Club Volleyball team.
“No one quit the team due to COVID,” Kinder said. “There are a few women who opted out of the fall season but will be joining us again in the spring.”
It is a priority for campus recreation and individual clubs to keep their members safe during this time and club lacrosse is doing the most they can to keep their members safe.
“As a team we hold each other accountable with our actions on and off the field,” Kinder said. “I think everyone on the team knows how important it is to stay safe during this time and we all know we need to do our part to keep playing the game we love.”