Calling Timeout: Gustie athletics begin “lay-low” period

A sudden uptick in COVID-19 cases this past week prompted a drastic adjustment in campus-wide prevention measures. The “lay low” announcement detailed in President Bergman’s email on November 6 to the student body had especially far-reaching implications for student-athletes finishing off their fall season before Thanksgiving. For some, the news of tightened restrictions was not unexpected.
“I wasn’t surprised by it at all. I thought that we were going to go online, so it was definitely a bummer, but it was better than I expected it to be” Senior Women’s Swim Captain Hailey Auran said.
For others, the news came as a sort of resigned relief, however anxious their initial reaction may have been.
“I was a little disappointed. Just in shock, sort of. I didn’t know what that [“lay low”] meant classes-wise, sports-wise, but I was kind of relieved in a sense. I knew that cases were exploding and I felt like we weren’t doing a whole lot as a school to try and combat this, and we should be trying to control what we can to stop the spread,” Sophomore Gymnast Annie Corbett said.
Features of the “Lay Low” period, which is slated to last from Friday, Nov. 6 through Friday, Nov. 20 (when many Gusties will be leaving campus for Thanksgiving), include a push to move in-person events to virtual formats, prohibition of visitors to residence halls, and more stringent policies for athletics teams. For many fall and winter sports currently operating under the “pod” system, this has meant a temporary pause in organized practices.
“If anyone is being tested, we’re on a pause. Like, right now, we’re on a pause. With these new restrictions, we will be paused more often than previously. I think the mass testing on Friday (Nov. 13) might affect us. Not many people have been getting tested, but I’m sure there are people that are asymptomatic,” Auran said.
Pausing whenever athletes were tested and contact-traced has been a regular occurrence throughout Gustie athletics this fall.
“Our team was in something of a “lay low” situation anyway [prior to the announcement] because we were on pause. I think that, for the most part, it’s a stronger encouragement to do what we were supposed to be doing anyway,” Head Coach of the Gustavus Men’s basketball team Mark Hansen, said.
As far as other safety measures go, the largest change Gustie student-athletes can expect for the last two weeks of on-campus practice is a more adamant pausing and testing program.
“The way that this has changed during the Lay Low period is we’ve gotten a lot more aggressive with pausing sports if they’ve had positive cases. If their numbers go up, we really do some contact tracing and see where that athlete was prior to that case. If someone’s getting tested, we are pausing teams to prevent someone who is positive from coming to a practice,” Gustavus Assistant Athletic Director Kari Eckhart said.
Even with the uncertainty of pausing and unpausing sporadically throughout these next two weeks, Gusties remain motivated to finish their fall season of training strong before the holidays. Corbett described her plans for staying fit in the absence of organized practices between Thanksgiving break and the start of J-Term.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to get back into the gym [after this pause]. I think most of our team is going home and staying home through December, then coming back for January in hopes that it looks as normal as possible for practices and school and stuff,” Corbett said.
With the “Lay Low” plan, any hopes of relaxed restrictions during the fall semester are well and truly dashed, but this news didn’t seem to dampen the resolve of most Gusties.
“Over these five weeks, I was quite impressed with [the team’s] continued levels of enthusiasm. In my conversations with them, I would say they were just excited to be able to play because so much has been prevented. Just to have a basketball in their hands, to have teammates around, and to get to do what they love to do competitively, I think they had a focus on ‘here’s what we can do, let’s be excited about it,” Hansen said.
Hansen added that he didn’t see any let down compared to past years of intense training periods without competition, with one stipulation.
“It’s always risky to compare one year to the next,” Hansen said.
It should be noted that the pandemic has not upset sports on an equal basis this semester.
“For every team, how much you can do of your normal sport really depends on… your sport. [Mask-wearing and social distancing] doesn’t really affect swimming. Tennis has been somewhat the same. Our runners can do a lot of the same things. It really has impacted some of our high risk activities, for example, like football, soccer, basketball, hockey…They’re not able to play defense. When you’re socially distant and you’re still doing your sport, their sport is looking a little different although the criteria is the same for all of our athletes,” Eckhart said.
Making decisions about athletics this semester has been no easy task, and balancing the wholesomeness of student-athlete experiences with the wellbeing of the wider campus population has taxed administrators, coaching staff and athletes alike.
“I feel like none of the decisions we’re making are awesome ones. You’re making the best of the most unfortunate ones. A lot of our athletes came to Gustavus not only for a quality education, but to compete in a sport they love…and it’s looked completely different this year. Decisions were made, and then they’ve had to be changed to rules that are pretty restrictive, and that’s hard on everyone,” Eckhart said.
“The administration’s job is to look at the whole picture of what needs to be best for the entire college. I want our athletes to assume that the administration is doing the best they can in a situation that nobody’s completely prepared for,” Hansen said.
As the end of yet another unique semester on the hill approaches, Gustie student athletes do their best to support each other and make good decisions.
“Just stay smart, wear your mask and keep working,” Corbett said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *