Norse athletics has been drastically affected by COVID-19. The competitive seasons of men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and football have been postponed to the spring semester. However, the teams are still practicing with the hope that they can eventually compete. The protocol for safety and practicing while following COVID-19 guidelines varies between the teams and the number of competitions they are supposed to be prepared to have in the spring.
Members of the football team hold each other accountable for following the rules set in place. Defensive lineman Levi Wolter (‘23) explained that his fellow team members see no reason to break the rules set in place for them, as they want to stay on campus and keep each other safe. Wolter also explained the difficulty of wearing masks under helmets and practicing in smaller pods than usual, but he said all of his teammates were willing to make those changes.
“Moving back on campus three months ago really helped me and my teammates realize just how serious this situation was and how much our season would have to change,” Wolter said. “But, it is hard to be mad at something you cannot control.”
The team’s season will be cut short and will only contain 3 to 5 games. However, the team will continue to work until the time comes to play.
“I personally feel lucky to be able to have a season,” wide receiver Andre Atkins (’22) said. “Lots of other schools are unable to compete at all this year.”
The volleyball team’s season has been dramatically affected by this pandemic as well. They will now only have a few conference games in the spring and no NCAA tournament. Luther middle hitter Aden Barber (’23) explained the difficulties of training under the new COVID-19 guidelines. The team practices in pods of ten people or less, with random testing every week. If there are no positive cases on the team for two weeks, the practicing pods can increase from ten to fifteen. The volleyball team faces the additional difficulty of having practices inside. However, the team’s morale stays strong, as the original disappointment of the postponed season faded away to excitement.
“The team now has a new opportunity to take the fall to improve their skills, and come into the spring stronger,” Barber said.
The Luther College men’s and women’s soccer teams have also had to make changes to their competition schedule. Both the men’s and women’s soccer teams are scheduled to play eight games in the spring. Like volleyball, members of both teams are practicing in smaller pods to distance themselves from each other, and the number in each pod increases as the number of cases stays down. Daily temperature checks, separate water bottles, mandatory masks, and the testing of one random person per pod weekly are standard measures taken by each of the soccer teams in practice to keep the possibility of a spring season alive.
“The guidelines seem necessary to me as there is still a lot unknown about this virus, and there is no reason not to take it seriously,” Willem Hawley (’24) said.
However, both teams deal with the struggle of wearing masks while running. Soccer has an extreme amount of running, and the mandatory masks make that a lot harder to breathe while engaging in such physical activity. In response to this issue, there has been an increase in water breaks.
Despite all of these athletes’ positive spirits about their unconventional seasons, there are still plenty of challenges to be had this fall. When asked about challenges each team is facing, a common theme of answers arose: a lack of team bonding. As Luther College is still in Phase 1 of the Residence Hall Guest/Visitor Policy, it is harder for the different grade levels to interact with their teammates, as they must do so outdoors or in public spaces during the day.
“It’s challenging to not be together as a whole soccer team to practice, as that makes both team bonding and team training harder,” Hawley said. “Especially as a first-year student, it is harder to bond with teammates in other years.”