Over the course of a year, colleges across the nation have endured significant change in order to comply with COVID mitigation strategies. Here at Mercyhurst, we recognize that many of these alterations have created a profound impact on our college experiences. Everything from the dearth of usual campus events like the absence of a Hurst Day to the added stresses of classes during a pandemic have all been a detriment to our time at university.
Recently, Mercyhurst has attempted to rekindle some semblance of normalcy by scheduling and facilitating athletic events. Like other colleges, the Hurst has resolved to allow its various teams to compete this spring, which even means having fall teams play in the middle of March. Although out of the ordinary, the movement of such events to the spring semester was deemed necessary due to COVID concerns over the health and safety of athletes and communities alike.
The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, or PSAC, announced its “return to play” guidelines that outlined how sporting events at various universities would look during the 2021 spring season. Some universities compete spectator-less, instead offering online viewing services. The conference also announced that it “has adopted the requirement that each of its member institutions will follow NCAA Guidelines according to the NCAA Sport Science Institute in regard to returning to play amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Such developments undeniably provide some benefits. A large part of some folks’ college life is athletics. From cheering teams on at weekend games to participating in them, these events can be key to forming lifelong friendships and lasting memories. The sense of camaraderie and spirit at a sporting event is unparalleled, and whether one is a spectator or a player, the energy at these events is unique and invaluable. What’s more, we need activities such as these athletic events now more than ever before. Not only do they help to keep people active, but they provide a sense of community that helps bring us together even in the toughest of times.
The benefits of athletic events cannot be overlooked. That said, we must also reflect on how such games also detract from our college lives as well. Even as teams comply with protocols such as regular COVID testing and self-screening, there is still an inherent risk of exposure and transmission between players and coaches at events. Long distance travel and the inability to social distance or wear face masks also heightens the risks associated with play. It’s also important to consider those students who may be indirectly disparaged by these matches. As we are frequently reminded, the actions of one person can affect an entire locality. If one player manages to contract COVID from their games, they risk the safety of their classmates, professors and other members of the Mercyhurst community. And, should any of these individuals come into contact with others, the web expands further outwards; although through no fault of their own, they have inadvertently jeopardized the well-being of countless others. As such, Mercyhurst must engage in an important balancing act to ensure that if its athletic events are to be held, that every possible precaution is implemented to protect athletes, students, and the community at large.