By: Gabrielle Ducote and Tamarcus Lang
Photo by: Michael Hanich
COVID-19’s impact on college football is well-known, but athletes in other contact sports like women’s soccer and men’s basketball are being deeply affected.
After waiting for their schedule, the USA women’s soccer team finally kicked off their season on Sept. 6, almost a month later than normal. Despite the delay, the team is currently 5-3 after Friday’s loss to Coastal Carolina.
But scheduling is the least of the changes.
Players must get tested 2-3 days before their games and wear masks during practice when social distancing is not possible, as part of the guidelines set by USA and the Center for Disease Control, CDC. The coaching staff also works to prevent players from sharing equipment, said first-year player Morgan White, the first of three players to test positive for the virus, after feeling symptoms.
“Luckily,” she said, “the team was not around me a few days prior to catching it because it was in the midst of some off days.”
So far, White’s experience as an athlete has not been impacted greatly by the virus. She is still playing the game she loves with her teammates.
“We are very grateful that the SunBelt has allowed us to play this much and continue to have a season. Our seniors are kind of taking a hit on their final year, but like I said, we are still able to play.”
But White does miss quality time with her team.
“Unfortunately, we have not been able to do as many team bonding moments or go into the locker room or the team room a bunch of times, but it is still fun.”
Kailey Littleford, another freshman player, also tested positive.
“It was hard to be in quarantine away from your friends locked up in your room for almost two weeks,” Littleford said. “I have never experienced anything like it before. I missed just being able to go outside and be with people.”
Despite the risks, both players still said they feel safe completing the season.
“Honestly, I feel safer practicing and playing games more than I ever have,” Littleford said. “I know I am around people who do not have it due to the persistent testing and protocols we follow. I believe all student athletes are safer than if they were at home.”
White said the athletes just want to enjoy playing for however long they can, recognizing that the future of sports at South is slightly unclear.
“I like to think they [sports] will continue for the whole semester,” White says. “I know we are doing good, and I see track practicing a lot and you always hear about different people getting cases, but you are always going to hear about that. I think sports will continue, but it will be interesting once basketball starts.”
South’s first men’s basketball game is set for Dec. 31 against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Senior guard John Pettway is in his final year with the team and is hoping to still have a season. Much like women’s soccer, the players on the men’s basketball team are tested at least once a week, and the cleaning staff deep cleans every 3-4 hours. He said South is taking the necessary action to keep athletes safe. And even though the season could still be canceled, the basketball team has a sense of determination.
“We have unfinished business to take care of,” he said, “and we really want to win the Sun Belt Championship.”
COVID IMPACTS FANS, MARCHING BAND
By: Ryan Smith
Contributors: Ford Chambliss, Kayla Rodgers and Gabrielle Ducote
Athletes are not the only ones affected by the pandemic; it is now affecting fans, too.
As the season continues, fans now realize the risks that come with attending games. USA has played three home games, against Tulane, UAB, and Texas State, while the Troy game was postponed to December due to team complications with COVID-19.
The new Hancock-Whitney Stadium is hosting 25 percent capacity, about 6,000. This is made up of outside fans as well as students who must enter a lottery for access to tickets. All fans are required to wear masks and practice social distancing at games.
“It is very disheartening especially, as a senior,” said Trinity Mays, “to not be able to go to the games with all of my friends.”
In addition to masks and social distancing cramping fans’ style, South will not allow fans to tailgate, or the band to march on the field.
Prior to COVID-19, fans would arrive at Ladd-Peebles stadium up to 10 hours prior to kick-off to tailgate, while the pep band performed. Now the games, food, and festivities will have to wait until next year.
Senior Jamie Carambat said this rule is ruining his last football season at South.
“At ATO (Alpha Tau Omega), we were looking forward to having our senior fraternity tailgates at the new stadium since it started getting built,” he said. “Now, we’ll never get to have it.”
Meanwhile, the marching band performs from the Michelob-Ultra Terrace near the north end zone with social distancing protocols in place, and the is not allowed to perform on the field.
Nevertheless, band members are still happy to perform for the fans and the team.
Said Nick Johnson, a sophomore drummer: “It’s very rewarding being in the band for the school I attend and just using my gift of music to entertain and help cheer on the football team.”
Despite missing the full experience, Trinity Mays is keeping it in perspective.
“I will continue to hold my head high and stay positive,” she said, “because you just never know what could happen at any moment in life.”