Athletics in a Pandemic?

Student athletes find new ways to practice during the remote-learning period.

By Josiah Vallone

By this time last year, sports teams at Hendrix College were blazing full steam ahead, whether they were playing in the fall or practicing for their spring seasons. This year, new challenges from last-minute plans for remote learning have thrown a wrench in usual sports plans. From interviewing players from different teams, I was able to gain more insight into how Hendrix sports have been coping and how they plan to move forward. 

On July 29th of this year, with just a little over two weeks before the start of the fall semester, President W. Ellis Arnold III released a student-wide announcement that explained why we would not be returning to campus in the near future. Initially, students were unsure of this decision’s extent, questioning if sports teams would still be allowed to live on campus to continue their sport. Cole Bolen, a central midfielder on the men’s soccer team at Hendrix, shared a little about how he first felt about this news: “The word that I used talking to Coach Kern and my teammates was ‘numb.’ It may seem contradictory, but even though I wasn’t surprised – and even supported the college’s decision – I was still in shock.” Within the next week, it was confirmed that the sports teams would be remote learning with all the other students. The question of whether students would meet once again later in the semester was still inconclusive. 

With this dramatic switch for the Warriors sports teams, innovations and changes have had to be made. “We’ve really tried to use the technology available to create as much a sense of normalcy as possible–we meet three times a week for skills and agility sessions through teams and have just started weekly 5ks in small groups,” said Bolen. Over on the swimming and dive team, Marni Younger shared some of the struggles they are facing during this transition: “Most of my fellow swimmers don’t have pool access, and most have limited gym access. It’s more or less impossible for all of us to be training at the same caliber while remote. Swimming and Diving are unique in that we can’t practice our sport unless we are physically in the water, so our coaches are encouraging us to stay in shape in whatever way we can, whether it’s strength-training, biking, running, etc.” Marni brings up an important topic. While it is possible for some teams to practice from home, not all sports (like the Swimming and Diving team) have that option. 

A significant part of sports is working together towards a singular goal as a cohesive team. Now that each player is separated from the team and responsible for themselves, training dynamics have completely changed. Oli Steven-Assheuer, a diver from the Swimming and Diving team, had an optimistic view on the obstacles they are facing: “Despite the challenges, our coaches and trainers are really putting their best foot forward for the upcoming season. We all are expected to train on our own, which is a nice way to build self-motivation and accountability.” While this seems like a good alternative, it also questions if a team can keep track of every player and their progress in the same way during past seasons. Bolen had some excellent insight into this situation while discussing what the spring season might look like: “Whatever the new normal ends up being, and whenever we get there, it’s going to highlight the work that people have or haven’t put in during this difficult period.”

On October 1st, nearly miBy this time last year, sports teams at Hendrix College were blazing full steam ahead, whether they were playing in the fall or practicing for their spring seasons. This year, new challenges from last-minute plans for remote learning have thrown a wrench in usual sports plans. From interviewing players from different teams, I was able to gain more insight into how Hendrix sports have been coping and how they plan to move forward. 

On July 29th of this year, with just a little over two weeks before the start of the fall semester, President W. Ellis Arnold III released a student-wide announcement that explained why we would not be returning to campus in the near future. Initially, students were unsure of this decision’s extent, questioning if sports teams would still be allowed to live on campus to continue their sport. Cole Bolen, a central midfielder on the men’s soccer team at Hendrix, shared a little about how he first felt about this news: “The word that I used talking to Coach Kern and my teammates was ‘numb.’ It may seem contradictory, but even though I wasn’t surprised – and even supported the college’s decision – I was still in shock.” Within the next week, it was confirmed that the sports teams would be remote learning with all the other students. The question of whether students would meet once again later in the semester was still inconclusive. 

With this dramatic switch for the Warriors sports teams, innovations and changes have had to be made. “We’ve really tried to use the technology available to create as much a sense of normalcy as possible–we meet three times a week for skills and agility sessions through teams and have just started weekly 5ks in small groups,” said Bolen. Over on the swimming and dive team, Marni Younger shared some of the struggles they are facing during this transition: “Most of my fellow swimmers don’t have pool access, and most have limited gym access. It’s more or less impossible for all of us to be training at the same caliber while remote. Swimming and Diving are unique in that we can’t practice our sport unless we are physically in the water, so our coaches are encouraging us to stay in shape in whatever way we can, whether it’s strength-training, biking, running, etc.” Marni brings up an important topic. While it is possible for some teams to practice from home, not all sports (like the Swimming and Diving team) have that option. 

A significant part of sports is working together towards a singular goal as a cohesive team. Now that each player is separated from the team and responsible for themselves, training dynamics have completely changed. Oli Steven-Assheuer, a diver from the Swimming and Diving team, had an optimistic view on the obstacles they are facing: “Despite the challenges, our coaches and trainers are really putting their best foot forward for the upcoming season. We all are expected to train on our own, which is a nice way to build self-motivation and accountability.” While this seems like a good alternative, it also questions if a team can keep track of every player and their progress in the same way during past seasons. Bolen had some excellent insight into this situation while discussing what the spring season might look like: “Whatever the new normal ends up being, and whenever we get there, it’s going to highlight the work that people have or haven’t put in during this difficult period.”

On October 1st, nearly midway through the fall semester, President W. Arnold III made the official announcement that students would not return to campus for the remainder of the semester. While students and faculty are hopeful for this spring, everyone will have to wait and see how the college’s on-campus protocols play out in real life. 

This article was featured in the Issues Issue. Check out the Issues Issue in its full glory here.

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