When COVID-19 hit the nation early last year, Hendrix students were sent home in March with no idea that it would be nearly a year before they could return to campus. Student athletes had to stop playing before the season was over, while all students carried the hope that classes would occur in-person in the fall and everything would be normal again. Unfortunately, the entirety of last semester was spent at home, sitting in front of a computer. Student athletes had to forfeit playing their sport for months longer than they anticipated. Now that many students, including athletes, have returned to a campus laden with COVID-19 safety protocols, one might wonder how student-athletes and their respective sports are functioning in such a climate.
Tonya Hale, Director of Student Activities, told me about some of the ways Hendrix athletics have been affected by COVID-19. She begins by stating, “because every sport is currently ‘in-season,’ most of our student athletes have the added commitment of practices and games all at once.” So, as if managing the college’s new COVID-19 protocols were not enough, student athletes are now busier than ever with both practice and games. Tonya continues, “Not only that, the teams have to share the athletic fields/gym space more than they are used to doing. Practices may be scheduled at unusual times… Some [student-athletes] also have to balance jobs with their classes and team commitments. They may find that they have to miss more meetings or events.”
Caitlan Hillier ‘21, a student on the women’s lacrosse team, offers her firsthand experience being a part of Hendrix athletics while dealing with the pandemic. She begins, “this year, we have to be really careful [during] practice and especially off the field. We wear masks from the moment we get out of our car until we get back in.” Before each practice, each team member gets their temperature checked and receives a disposable medical mask. And all of her team members take a weekly COVID-19 test. She notes that the lacrosse team will soon be traveling for the first time since the pandemic began, and each athlete must be seated around and share a room with whomever they already share a room on campus. The team also cannot use their locker room, which Caitlin notes is disappointing, because it’s the spot of many “unexpected good memories.”
As this unusual spring semester continues to roll by, it is worth remembering that some students may be under even more stress than “normal” – whatever that means – as they attempt to balance their academic commitments, social lives, and athletics schedule. But though there is added stress on athletes this semester, Tonya reminds us that “all students must accept that this semester will be a weird anomaly… Both athletes and non-athletes will find it difficult to navigate anything beyond the college’s usual academic rigor due to the pandemic cloud that hangs over us.” This semester is indeed difficult for us all, but we must remind ourselves that better days are coming. And the only way to get there is by doing what we can to ensure the safety of ourselves and others.