Sports in time of Covid-19


Athletic Director Dave Wrath sits in his office in the Roy J. Carver Center for Physical Education on September 4, 2020 and works on consistent changing plans for sports. Photo by Lauren Pillion

Julie Lombardi

Article by Julie Lombardi and Joe McCoy
Varsity level fall sports at Augustana are postponed due to COVID-19. This decision came over the summer as the CCIW and Augustana decided that it would not be safe to compete in competitive sports.
“There’s a lot more questions than answers at this point,” Mike Zapolski, director of athletics at Augustana, said. While that may be true, we are trying to keep sports fans informed about what exactly is happening, and what might happen in the future.
Fall sports teams are planning on playing in the spring with a conference-only schedule, and women’s tennis and golf championships will take place  if it is safe to do so. This would give players an opportunity to still have a season and be rewarded for all the hard work they put in.
That doesn’t mean there are not sports happening on campus now. Nine fall sports teams came back to campus for practices before the school year started, and spring sports either have started or will soon start practicing. Winter sports can begin practices on Oct. 1, and their season is set to begin after Jan. 1, 2021.
As far as testing athletes goes, medium- and high-risk sports are testing 25 percent of their team rosters every Tuesday, with emphasis on out-of-state and international students. There is hope in the sports world that an inexpensive, yet effective and efficient testing method could be used to allow teams to get the most they can out of their time together.
Dave Wrath, associate director of athletics, emphasized just how important practices are to athletes.
“More so now than ever, it’s imperative that we do things as a team because you don’t have the competition dangling at the end,” Wrath said.
Teams are still allowed to practice if socially distanced and with masks on, but that is as far as they can go. No more team bonding activities, no more physical contact and no more games. It is a change that has been hard for both players and coaches to adjust to.
Football Head Coach Steve Bell said that the biggest challenge has been getting his freshman players acclimated with the team. Football’s summer practices were cancelled, which is when practice for the season usually begins, and players weren’t allowed to come to campus until Aug. 22.
In regards to the first years, Coach Bell says it’s been difficult to teach everything to the players in a short amount of time.
Women’s volleyball Head Coach Kelly Bethke expressed these same concerns, but was really proud of how her players have adapted to the changes. Even with the heat in Carver Center last week, her players practiced with a mask on for multiple hours and never complained once.
Another big change with the pandemic is that the coaches were not able to recruit players like they normally would. All high school volleyball tournaments were shut down in March, and most high school football games are not happening this year. Coach Bell and his staff have had to give tours to individual players and their families instead of having group recruiting days.
Coach Bell praised his coaching staff work over the summer trying to get as many players as possible to visit campus. Coach Bethke also got creative, as she turned to Zoom calls in order to talk with potential recruits. But both coaches have not let these uncertain times set them back from doing what they love.
Although times are tough now, all hope is not lost for games to be played this school year. “Our administration..has given us every single opportunity to succeed,” Wrath said. “It’s up to us to execute it.” Wrath says the Augustana community is doing everything it can to allow for the possibility of sports to return.
As long as students, athletes and non-athletes alike, continue to wear their masks and socially distance, it’s possible for sports to make a comeback this school year.
Athletic Director Dave Wrath sits in his office in the Roy J. Carver Center for Physical Education on September 4, 2020 and works on consistent changing plans for sports. Photo above by Lauren Pillion.