Club sports moves forward with plans for 2020-21 season
Like Liberty’s NCAA sports programs, the 40 men’s and women’s Club Sports teams on campus are encountering a plethora of challenges as they face the upcoming season.
Some of those adjustments include mask-wearing requirements (both indoor and outdoor sports), staying six feet apart from teammates in locker rooms, and having a lower number of athletes in weight rooms during workout sessions. Additionally, if any team reaches a 20% positive testing rate, all activities for that team will be suspended.
Men’s Division I hockey Associate Head Coach Jeff Boettger helps lead a task force in charge of communicating with LU’s Office of Legal Affairs, the Health and Wellness Department and the Athletic Training department to figure out the best methods of combating the difficulties ahead.
“We’ve all been in constant contact, trying to get information out to players so they know what to expect,” Boettger said.
The first hurdle the hockey team overcame was postponing tryouts until Sept. 7-11. The team delayed tryouts because several members are international students, including sophomore goalie Cedric LeSieur, a native of Montreal, Quebec. Upon arrival, Liberty required every international student to enter a precautionary two-week self-isolation period. Once that time was completed, tryouts could resume.
The prevailing expectation is that conference games will resume in the spring, but the fall season is still in limbo. Boettger and Head Coach Kirk Handy are anxious to play this season and build off of last year’s
“We are very confident in having a season,” Boettger said. “We have a strong core that has the mentality to do well. We could easily finish in the top five nationally.”
Liberty’s men’s ultimate frisbee team is another program whose promising season was interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak. While the team is hungry to replicate last year’s success, practices will look different for the foreseeable future.
Before they are cleared to practice, players get their temperatures recorded and fill out a questionnaire.
Ultimate Head Coach Kevin Habermas believes the program has plenty of upside to build on from last year and that these temporary limitations will not affect that growth.
“We had a ton of people at tryouts last fall, and it was really exciting to see the program grow,” Habermas said. “You’ve just got to take what you get and kind of move through it.”
Even though the COVID-19 outbreak may put some seasons on hold or slow their pace down, the pandemic will not prevent athletes from getting injured. For the Athletic Training Department, the safety precautions will add stress to the already high-pressure job of constantly rehabilitating athletes.
Athletes will only be able to meet with trainers by appointment, so walk-ins are no longer an option. All staff must wash their hands while treating patients and frequently clean any surface they touch.
Although the challenge at hand seems daunting, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine Angie Witt believes that her team of six trainers has what it takes to successfully treat athletes.
“We will be doing the best we can to build each other up, and we will use this chance to influence others for Christ in the way we act,” Witt said.
Ultimately, the ability for club sports teams to play in the upcoming season will depend on how well the students and coaches follow the health guidelines.
“We have to trust the athletes to be responsible,” Witt said. “Their seasons depend on their decisions.”
While so much remains unknown, Boettger believes club sports is in the best possible position to have a 2020-21 season.
“The collaboration between all the different departments has been exceptional,” Boettger said. “Things are changing quickly, but it has been a blessing to see all of us work together to get teams ready for a new year.”
John Simmons is the Web Manager. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSimmonsJr7.