Life On Campus Different During Pandemic For Local Athletes In The USA

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging across the United States, most University campuses are in varying stages of lockdown. While schools are open, life in the USA, and at school has been different for local athletes attending NCAA schools.

“There are a lot of differences. For me personally, all of my classes are online,” explained Alison Stephens, who is a track and field athlete at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“Some of my teammates still have a few in person courses, but for the most part, most students are fully online. Before we enter any building, we have to answer a few screening questions, have our temperature checked, and we have to wear a mask in any spot on campus outside of our dorm room. Campus is very quiet with most students doing school from home or their dorm rooms.”

Maddy Lavoie (left) at Delta State

“This academic year looks a lot different than previous years,” echoed Maddy Lavoie, a swimmer at Delta State University in Mississippi. “I am currently spending a lot of time at my house. Most of my classes have been moved online. I have one lab that is still in person and one hybrid class in person.”

“When I go into class, I have to wipe down the desk and chairs with sanitizing wipes before I can sit down as well. I found a struggle of getting into “school mode”. Without physically attending classes, it’s hard for me to get into the mindset that I have homework to do and I need to study,” Lavoie added.

Along with the incredible differences of online learning and safety measures on campus for students, the uncertainty of when, or if a season will begin is also weighing on student athletes.

“I don’t know exactly what my season is going to look like,” said Stephens. “Talking with my coaches, they don’t expect us to have much of an indoor season, if we have an indoor season at all. We should definitely have an outdoor season though if school stays open long enough to allow that. I’m lucky, it’s easy to socially distance outdoor track.”

While both athletes are training, an actual season is still up in the air.

Alison Stephens

Both Stephens and Lavoie are also experiencing an array of emotions living in the USA during the pandemic – from frustration to fear, the risk is real.

“I am feeling very nervous about the pandemic down here. My roommate, who did everything right to prevent exposure, was diagnosed with COVID-19 and experienced most of the symptoms fairly heavily so I have seen what it does to people and how fast and easily you can get it,” Stephens said.

“My team alone has had almost 10 cases since we returned to campus in late August and we have all been working hard to socially distance and wear masks. Being at home, there was a relatively low risk of getting sick and it didn’t really seem real before I came here, but now that I know people and have been around people who have it or had it, it makes the situation more real and forces me to constantly be on my guard.In my experience, a lot of cases are asymptomatic, so you never really know who could have it, or even if you have it and don’t know. That is why it is so important that we follow the protocols and get tested regularly”

Those precautions are a key message to student-athletes on campus across North America, and the message is the same – if you want a season, stay home, and protect yourself and others.

“My current feeling is frustration about this pandemic. Being on a sports team, it is now a team sport more than ever because of this pandemic,” says Lavoie.

“There’s this Tweet going around right now and it goes “do you want to party or do you want to have a season?” This is so true because you can’t have both. With this pandemic, even one person’s actions can affect what happens to the entire team. But my team is currently trying to go above and beyond to be able to have a season.”

For the sake of the health and safety of everyone, including the dozens of Chatham-Kent athletes competing in the USA, one can only hope people follow those words, and that society can get back to the point where sports can seem like an activity we can do without putting lives on the line.

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