Following the termination of fall club sports competition on July 15, club athletes have been forced to navigate the uncertainty of a socially distanced semester.
Mary Patwell, senior captain of the women’s ultimate frisbee club team, said the announcements from Campus Athletics have generated confusion among club leaders and participants.
“We’ve been trying to have open communication with our team, but it’s been hard — especially at first,” Patwell said. “The club sports rules didn’t make sense, and I honestly feel like we’re still trying to make sure that we understand them correctly.”
Despite the “vague” regulations, Patwell and other frisbee leaders have implemented certain precautionary measures to ensure the club is both complying with university policy and prioritizing the health of its members and the surrounding Lehigh community.
In addition to standard social distancing, frisbee members implemented a policy to not don club jerseys or exceed four athletes while throwing a frisbee. Participants also can’t engage in any formal scrimmage-style play, such as “three on three.” Instead, members may practice casual throwing only.
Similar to the frisbee team, the equestrian team has also tried instituting safety precautions. Junior captain Rachel Condon said she attempted to work around the team riding aspects of the sport but was met with pushback from Campus Athletics.
“Riding is a non-contact sport, and we don’t need to be in close proximity to other people in order to do it, so I thought that we could maybe figure something out where I could schedule something with the barn, and we could all go once a week,” Condon said. “They said absolutely not, and that if it could be viewed as a club activity, we couldn’t do it. They’re just being very careful with our health and safety, which I understand, but it’s very disappointing.”
Campus Athletics, which oversees Lehigh’s club sports, did not return a request for comment.
Like Condon, senior men’s ultimate frisbee captain Ethan Holmgren also voiced his frustrations regarding the precautions, especially concerning the strict penalty of full-time suspension if university rules are violated.
“It sounds like even if we’re taking the proper precautions to be safe and protect each other, there’s still the risk that we’ll get in trouble with the school, and that’s not fun for us,” Holmgren said. “It’s been very disappointing for a lot of people on the team, in that sense.”
In spite of their frustrations, the club teams are finding ways to adapt to the new rules, particularly through online platforms such as Zoom and GroupMe.
The frisbee teams have been successful in using the apps for recruitment purposes, such as virtual game nights and information sessions.
Holmgren said, while the online activities are no substitute for getting out on the field, he is optimistic the meetings will have a positive result.
“I hope that we’re able to retain interest from some freshmen through whatever virtual events we’re doing,” Holmgren said. “I’d like to see some success out of the recruitment effort we’re making.”
Outside of recruitment, Zoom and GroupMe have also played a role in maintaining club structure and connections for the club dance team.
Senior captain Jane Levin said she laments the loss of traditional events like the team’s annual performance at Parents’ Weekend, but she and her teammates have managed to find fun methods to keep the club active. The team plans to hold Zoom practices every Monday and frequent in-person hangouts, with the latter open only to the first 10 members to “like” certain messages in the GroupMe chat.
While the future of club sports is undetermined, Levin said she and other club athletes are choosing to stay upbeat about the situation.
“For now, I just want to stay positive for everyone,” Levin said. “Even if we just sit around on Zoom for half an hour every week, at least we’re all still together.”