by Peter Rock (he/him/his), Staff Writer
As Davidson students adjust to a drastically different campus experience, club sports captains and athletes alike find ways to practice while staying safe. From the virtual activities fair and virtual tournaments, to aspirations for tournament play in the spring, every sport has taken its own path in this unique fall semester.
The process started with an email from Allen Sutton, an administrator who acted as the contact point between the COVID-19 Response Team, which created the safety protocol for Davidson this fall, and the leadership of each club sport.
The email, sent out in late July, gave club sports captains information about the guidelines for club sports participation. This included a chart outlining the risk level posed by every club sport at Davidson, listing high-contact sports such as lacrosse and rugby as high risk, and no-contact sports, such as tennis or sailing, as low risk. The email explicitly stated that there would be no competition with teams from other schools or even off-campus practicing. Sutton requested that each team make a plan for returning to practice, making clear that the plan should include safety protocols, including mask-wearing, equipment sanitation measures, and social distancing.
Tennis Captain Shelby Graff ‘21 noted that Sutton and the COVID-19 team “wanted students to have something to do on campus and was eager to make [the team’s plan] work.” This was a shared sentiment; both the men’s ultimate frisbee team and the men’s lacrosse team had positive experiences working with the school to have a plan approved.
A captain of the men’s ultimate frisbee team, Jack Swinson ‘21 found that Sutton “was super helpful, listening to us and giving us suggestions and feedback. We’ve appreciated his patience.” The president of the men’s club lacrosse team, Collier Ballard ‘23 is still working with Sutton to find a plan that works for a high-risk sport.
As a spring sport, lacrosse has been looking further ahead, with hopes for an improved situation next semester. Ballard said, “We’ve focused on recruiting this semester. We’ve had to change our team’s plan as campus changes, and we’re trying to finalize our practice plan for the spring.” Lacrosse co-president Will Newman ‘23 recently attended a virtual meeting hosted by the South Eastern Lacrosse Conference. At the meeting, Newman learned that there are a few schools that have returned to practice, but, for the most part, the conference is on hold until further notice.
Davidson Club Tennis had an easy time with the approval process given its low-risk status. As long as each court is limited to two players, everyone wears a mask, and every team member uses hand sanitizer regularly, tennis is able to continue. The umbrella organization for college tennis is even hosting a virtual tournament. Graff explained the premise: “They send eight challenges for us, we record ourselves completing them and send the videos back. It’s a nice way for us to compete with other schools.”
The hardest part for the tennis team has been limiting numbers at practice. Because there is limited court space, tennis has had to revise its “come one, come all” policy. Graff noted that “it’s very hard to have to tell people they didn’t get a spot [for that practice].”
The silver lining for club sports this fall has been recruitment. The virtual activities fair was a success, garnering attention for various sports. Tennis Captain Angela Neiberger ‘21 has observed that for first years, tennis “has been a good way to meet people outside their hall.” Between the virtual fair and word of mouth, tennis “has even gotten more interest than past years,” according to Neiberger.
The men’s ultimate frisbee team had success as well. Swinson has been pleasantly surprised, stating, “We’ve had consistent numbers from young guys at all our practices.” According to Swinson, one first year identified frisbee as the highlight of his fall so far.
Club sports provide an important outlet for many students. As each team finds ways to ensure its participants’ safety, practices have continued, and club leadership remains hopeful for competition in the spring.