The Westminster College Athletic Department has canceled all sport practices for athletes who are not currently competing in their championship season, citing concerns about the rise in COVID-19 cases.
The decision stopped all mandatory training for teams that are not currently in-season.
“There are no formal team functions to my knowledge at this point if you are technically not in season,” said Alex Wetmore, head strength and conditioning coach. “The only teams that are still training and practicing right now are men’s and women’s basketball, indoor track and field, and the ski teams.”
During a normal period of training, athletes undergo mandatory weight lifting practices. Under new regulations, these are no longer required.
“It would defeat the purpose if the teams still all got together and went out to train because at that point you’re not able to maintain social distancing very well,” Wetmore said. “So, you run the risk of a lot of people being contact-traced as the semester dwindles down.”
Some teams, like soccer and lacrosse, have conducted voluntary training periods ahead of their Spring seasons.
“We’re able to limit the group size so that proper distancing can be maintained,” Wetmore said.
But for spring athletes, the question of whether they’ll get a season still remains.
“To be honest, I’m trying to not get my hopes super high,” said Courtney McCabe, junior neuroscience major, who plays lacrosse. “Because last year when we shut down, it was just pretty heartbreaking.”
Prior to the newly-announced regulations, the women’s lacrosse team held physically distant practices on the Dumke Field. Those ended after their last practice Oct. 24, shifting to an all-conditioning and weight lifting regime.
“I personally felt okay with it, just because we were seeing the same people,” said McCabe. “Most of our team was being pretty responsible. It did make me a little nervous being with players who were going out and not practicing great social distancing. But we did wear masks whenever we were practicing with contact […] And so those sessions were definitely safer and, I think, made everyone feel more comfortable.”
However, these soon petered out with Gov. Gary Herbert’s increased restrictions that prohibited inter-household gatherings.
McCabe said she expects these canceled practices to affect the team dynamic and performance.
“Lacrosse is a team sport,” she said. “If you can’t practice with your team for three months, and then you jump in straight into your season trying to get in, there’s going to be some rebuilding that we have to do.”
“Rebuilding that chemistry is going to take a little bit of time,” McCabe said. “We’re not going to hit the field again till almost the end of January. So that’s a big gap.”
The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) still plans to conduct Winter sports with similar guidelines to those implemented during the Fall semester.