Starting on Monday, Aug. 24, Fairfield University began repopulating its campus during the current COVID-19 global pandemic. This meant that students would be returning to campus, but under strict rules and regulations intended to protect the health and well-being of the Fairfield community.
Some of the most noticeable changes have been in the activities that students are allowed to participate in during their free time, such as clubs. One area that has faced uncertainty is club sports. This is because decisions pertaining to club athletics are not dictated by larger organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association or conferences like the Northeast Conference or the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Rather, they must wait for direction from the University.
Club sports are a way for students to stay active, make friends and take a break from their school work, playing a sport that they love without the strict commitment that Division I athletics requires. Due to COVID-19, club sports are unable to meet, practice or play games until Oct. 1, according to information given to The Mirror by Eli Olken-Dann, Fairfield’s director of recreation.
Club teams have to find new ways to try and stay connected, and they have no idea what the rest of the year will look like. Club athletes are working closely with the Department of Recreation to curate extensive return-to-play plans which will ensure that their resumption of practice will be executed in a safe and informed manner.
For example, while some players on the club basketball team have played pickup at the court by Campion Hall in their free time, they are uncertain about the future of their season. The dance team heavily relies on the varsity basketball teams’ seasons, since it is at those games that the dancers showcase their talent. The dance team supports the players and entertains the fans at the games alongside the cheerleading team, but who knows if spectators will be allowed to attend games if the MAAC and NCAA eventually decide to start competition. According to Samantha Higgins ‘23, the dance team has had a level of virtual interaction through Zoom to keep in touch and has held tryouts while following the COVID-19 regulations.
Sophomore Vincent Spaziante of the club hockey team is currently exploring various ways in which the team could practice this fall. Olken-Dann explained that University transportation will not be accessible to club-athletes, and carpools are not permitted until further notice due to social distancing guidelines. This poses issues to teams like club hockey and equestrian club, whose members rely on such transportation options to travel to off-campus facilities where they practice. Youth and travel hockey programs have resumed in the state of Connecticut, as reported by FOX 61, meaning that the rinks are back up and running. In lieu of these practice locations, Olken-Dann has reached out to such teams and generously offered them alternatives, like the use of on-campus spaces to work on their skills for the time being.
Although only a handful of club teams were mentioned above, all of the club sports teams are in the same position as the majority of society, rooted in uncertainty and hesitancy.
Many athletes are frustrated and upset, while they wait desperately for more news regarding when they can jump back into things. Thankfully, communication between the Department of Recreation is as consistent and informative as it can be.
Club athletes truly do miss competing and being with their beloved teammates, and only time will tell when these committed student-athletes will be able to carry on what they do best: sports.