by Ashley Clark Contributing Writer
Near the end of summer break, UMF made the decision to allow student athletes to participate in their sports season; however, these seasons have been altered to align with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
The athletics department came to this tough decision after watching numerous videos and Zoom calls from the National College Athletic Association (NCAA), led by medical professionals.
The department is also keeping up to date with COVID-19 trends in Maine in order to protect incoming student athletes returning to school in the fall.
Julie Davis, Director of Athletics, worked with coaching and sports medicine staff on campus, in addition to attending meetings with athletic directors from within the sports conference. “You have challenges as a director anyway, but probably the hardest thing is dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity for a sustained period of time,” said Davis.
The athletic department was determined to develop a plan of action that would allow student athletes to participate in sports. They have also made it mandatory that all student athletes living on and off campus must participate in the early testing program provided by a COVID-19 testing company in the Fitness and Recreational Center (FRC).
Fall sports such as field hockey, soccer and cross country are not able to compete, but athletes are still able to attend practices.
The department has developed a month long process with differing levels of intensity for each week, with the intention for safe team practices.
The first week of practice involved routine temperature checks with no equipment use— conditioning exercises only. All practices must also consist of physical distancing at six feet, wearing a face mask and sanitizing when possible.
Jade Petrie, a junior and Early Childhood Education major, participates in both field hockey and lacrosse. Wearing her mask during her practices has been hard enough, even at the start of her fall sports season. “It’s really hard to wear because when you start to run, you breathe heavily and suck in the mask,” Petrie said. “It makes it almost impossible for you to catch your breath.”
Liz Ouellette, senior and Elementary Education major, is also a member of the field hockey team. Her last season has been impacted by the changes to the fall sports season. “There’s no team bonding, such as having dinners together, because there are too many people to be in a house. We can’t have bus rides, games, anything really,” said Ouellette.
The athletics department is working hard to assure that athletes are able to at least practice. Many are just grateful to even be able to participate with one another. “I think it is better to have something than nothing,” says Ouellette. “It’s my senior year and having practices with a team I’ve spent the past three years with is better than not being able to at all.”
Petrie praises all the department’s work and planning. “I’m thankful that they are letting us have an opportunity to pick up my field hockey and lacrosse stick, regardless of playing games,” says Petrie.
COVID-19 guidelines are changing continuously, which makes it difficult to predict how the winter and spring sports seasons will look for student athletes. While fall sports already have a plan in motion, winter and spring sports are still being discussed. Winter sports are scheduled to start practicing soon. The athletic department is “planning [these seasons] with optimism,” says Davis.