With COVID-19 looming over the start of the year, Mercy-hurst athletic teams were forced to adapt to new safety precautions in order to start their seasons. While fall 2020 sports are cancelled and rescheduled to start this com-ing January, sports teams are still practicing, lifting, and working toward the spring when they can hopefully compete against other PSAC teams.
This year, athletic teams are working through phases that dic-tate the number of players in con-tact with one another, how often they practice, and for how long. There are five phases that Athletics must work through to effectively practice in the COVID-19 pan-demic.
Phase 1 entailed athletic prac-tices being open for only sched-uled and supervised use, but no field coaching. Students must wear masks at all times, remain six feet apart, there can be no contact or incidental contact drills, and hand sanitizer must be used be-fore entering and exiting the play-ing surface.
The second phase allowed ath-letic venues to be scheduled, stu-dent athletes placed in pods of 12 or less, mask enforcements, and organized lifts.
The most recent phase that the athletic teams have entered is Phase 3. This phase continues en-forcing the previous phases rules but allows for athletes to be in pods of 24 or less.
With Phase 4 coming up next, the teams will have no limit on their pod sizes for practice and contact drills will be allowed.
The final phase is Phase 5, which entails all precautions list-ed in the previous phases, but athletes will only have to sanitize before entering and exiting the playing surface.
Every athlete on campus must fill out a symptom form every morning prior to them having practice and lift. This symptom form is their ticket to getting a daily wrist band from their team’s athletic trainer and being allowed to step on to the field or ice. Play-ers must also sanitize and wear a mask while practicing.
“It has definitely been an adjust-ment, but I am glad to have the opportunity to be able to play and be on the field again. I am looking forward to hopefully getting out small groups and into some larger scale playing,” Rebeca McGwin, sophomore Women’s Lacrosse player, said.
While athletes have had to adapt to their new circumstanc-es of playing their sport, coaches have also been tasked with work-ing around the COVID-19 phases and safety guidelines.
“The transition to phase two is going well. It’s about the mindset and determination of the players. I am thankful every day we have on the field, it’s definitely going well so far, but I am looking for-ward to having bigger numbers on the field. It will allow for more drills and will keep our players interested in getting better and staying motivated every day,” Sam Struss, Women’s lacrosse assistant coach, said.
Kevin Cooke, head coach of the Women’s lacrosse team, spoke to the team’s progress through the phases.
“Our plan is to continue staying in the guidelines. We are excited for the next phase because it will give us an opportunity to work with more players at the same time and it’s an opportunity to socialize our team. This year is dif-ferent because we are doing every-thing backwards. Usually we start practice on high and then slow down in October and November, but as a coach you have to adapt to what is given in front of you,” Cooke said.
Fall sports will not be able to compete until 2021. Field Hock-ey is one of many fall teams cur-rently missing out on their regu-larly-scheduled game days, but the team has remained positive throughout the adversity.
“Things have been going great! It has been a big adjustment with the new COVID-19 guidelines and now a new coach,” Libby Jones, a junior Field Hockey play-er, said. “I think it has pushed us to work harder and to appreciate every moment we have togeth-er on the field or in the weight room. I think right now we are grateful for the playing time we do have because some schools in the PSAC are not together or playing, so competing is a luxury we are looking forward to.”
Athletes received news on Sept. 25 that the Athletic Department plans on advancing into Phase 4 on Oct. 5 if the things continue to go well.
Masks are allowed to be re-moved when physical distancing can be guaranteed during individ-ual drills and outdoor condition-ing drills. Teams must remain in pods of 24 and contact drills are allowed with masks on.
Collegiate athletes at Mercy-hurst and all around the country have lost or had a season post-poned. While the return to sports in 2020 has been different than past years and involves wearing masks, athletes are grateful for the opportunity to just be on the field, playing their sport.