Athletics are back on… again

Fall sports practices and competitions reinstated after environment level is reduced back to high yellow.

Annalisa Waddick

Athletic practices and competitions for fall sports will restart as the campus COVID-19 environment level returns to yellow-high.

According to a campus-wide email sent by the COVID Committee Feb. 8, practices and games will resume with “additional protocols to limit the number of close contacts at prac- tices.”

The changes allow fall sports like soccer and football to join winter and spring sports that were not bound by the school’s decision to pause practices.

And this decision comes two weeks after the COVID Committee raised the environ- ment level to red when 60% of quarantine and isolation spaces were in use. Initially, the restrictions encompassed all sports practices. But after a day, winter and spring sports re- sumed training, leaving fall sports the only ones affected by the restriction.

Yet as games draw nearer many players said they are excited to be back.

“We’re very happy and excited to be start- ing practices up again,” Michael Nyc, ‘22, a captain of the men’s soccer team said. “It wasn’t ideal having practices cancelled ini- tially, but we’re just grateful to be able to play and hopefully continue on without any stoppages.”

Generals Athletics put out a press release shortly after the announcement which stat- ed that all athletic competition through Feb. 7 was cancelled, including five basketball games, two swimming competitions, and a wrestling match.

Jan Hathorn, W&L’s Athletics Director and a member of the COVID-19 committee, ex- plained that the committee decision stems from a desire to slow further transmission of COVID-19.

“Close contacts have been high across our student body population,”Hathorn wrote in an email. “And because student athletes are students first, and are therefore integrated in the entire student body, the need to pause to assess the situation was determined.”

Hathorn also said that the reactions to the decision have been mixed, with many people feeling frustrated and sad.

“Emotions are high and lots of concerns have been voiced and questions have been asked by students, faculty and staff about why, how long, when will there be a decision, etc.,” Hathorn said. “These are extremely challenging times and we have resilient stu- dent athletes and coaches who have handled this difficulty with thoughtfulness and com- posure.”

One of those resilient coaches is Mike Singleton, the head coach of the men’s soccer team. Despite finding out about the restric- tions at the same time as everybody else, he said it did not come as that much of a surprise.

“Nothing is a shock to me now, we’ve been

in this pandemic long enough,” Singleton said. “[It’s] disappointing, but I wouldn’t say surprising because I was worried, quite honestly, about students coming back to campus and whether we would see some acculturation challenges to the more restricted environment.”

He said this sense of disap- pointment stems from his worry about the effect the

restrictions will have on his team’s energy and spirit.

“The biggest impact currently is just morale overall. Happiness. Hope. People being able to engage in their passion,” Singleton said. “Teams have been getting the red light, green light, red light, green light, and that’s really challenging when you have a passion and it’s also a physical release that keeps you mental- ly more happy and satisfied.”

Harry Barringer, ‘23, is a forward on Sin- gleton’s soccer team. Coming into the year, he was hopeful that his team would be able to compete given the success of their 2019 season.

“We were coming into the season really excited,” Barringer said. “Last fall… our team was really strong. We finished seventh in the country and then only graduated one starter. So we were feeling really good about our upcoming season this fall. That obvious- ly didn’t happen. And then this spring – we thought that was going to be our time.”

One of the reasons the team was so strong, Barringer said, was because players were able to connect during practices and develop a chemistry that translated into winning game after game.

This chemistry was only possible because of countless hours the men spent together – at least 25 hours a week, oftentimes more – and Barringer said he worries that this pause on practices may disrupt the building of those bonds between players.

Still, he said he acknowledges that these are unprecedented times that must be dealt with in unprecedented ways.

“I completely understand,” he said. “We’ve definitely gotten used to rolling with the punches. This is just another punch.”

Jimmie Johnson, ‘20 and assistant football coach, said his football players have had sim- ilar reactions to Barringer.

“Obviously everybody was a little upset,” Johnson said. “But talking to our players, I think everybody has just taken it in stride. [They’re] doing what they can do, trying to be responsible leaders on campus to make the environment level better.”

The football team’s first game is scheduled for Feb. 26. Johnson said he was thankful the team still had time to prepare.

“Since going back to yellow we can return to full practice while still maintaining general covid practices such as masking and distanc- ing,” Johnson said. “We are stoked to be prac- ticing again and doing our best to prepare for our upcoming game against Shenandoah.”