Club sports during COVID-19: badminton and squash

Indoor club sports teams have faced challenges throughout the year

Vivek Kumar

Club sports at Washington and Lee University face unique challenges during the pandemic. Scheduling and operating amid COVID-19 guidelines were especially trying with sports you may not follow closely.

For example, both club squash and the badminton club were adversely affected because of their indoor nature. 

These two club sports generally operate in the Duchossois Athletic Recreation Center, which reopened this year after renovations. But this academic year, the badminton club played in the Doremus-Warner Athletic Center on the fourth floor. 

The club operated under the university’s COVID-19 guidelines. Players said this was difficult, particularly because of masks.

“After you play for a while, the masks become really gross because of the sweat,”said Haochen Tu, ‘22, president of the club. She said it was also difficult to remain six feet apart all the time.

Both of these clubs were fairly new when COVID-19 restrictions started. 

Club squash was formed at the beginning of 2020, but it didn’t become operational until the fall. While the badminton club was formed in 2018, it had to ground operations for the year 2019, only starting again in fall term of 2020 during the pandemic.

The fluctuating nature of the university’s COVID-19 guidelines added to the clubs’ troubles. 

Sometimes, the indoor limit was six people, which severely affected participation in the practice sessions, said Tu. 

And when the environment level moved to red, the club could no longer play indoors. Tu said that this further limited the scope of badminton sessions, as an outdoor breeze is not ideal for the feather-fringed shuttlecock that is struck by rackets.

Winter term brought yet new difficulties for the club in terms of scheduling. 

“Varsity sports came back. They have priority over club sports in scheduling,” Tu said. 

The club had to re-adjust its time slots for practice sessions, Tu said.

Club Squash was similarly constrained due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Although the club can claim designated courts on the first floor of the Duchossois Athletic Recreation Center, the members of the club could not use the courts for most of the last semester. 

Isabel Abt, ‘21, president of the club, said that the squash courts were closed longer than those of other indoor sports. 

Even after students were permitted to play, only one person was allowed to be on the court at a time, left to hit the ball without a partner, Abt said. She said this killed the excitement for beginners eager to learn squash.

She said she kept negotiating with the COVID-19 Committee for relaxations in the rules. The club was finally allowed to have two people on the court at a time, with face masks and face shields on, and only allowed to play under the watch of a club leader. 

The club enforced COVID-19 guidelines strictly, Abt said. 

She said she understands that it’s frustrating for members to play in masks, but it is necessary if they want to continue to play. She had to expel two members from the club who violated the guidelines and group policies.

“I’ve made those pushes, but you know some things I can’t push, and I think sometimes people have a hard time accepting that. They just want to be able to play” she said.

Although the COVID-19 era has been challenging for them, both the clubs are hopeful of relaxed restrictions in the upcoming fall term of 2021 as vaccinations continue to roll out. 

“We are looking forward to regular play and we are definitely planning to have a tournament next semester when we can have more players on the court,” Tu said.