Even before school began, the 2021 fall season had already started for Lakeside athletes. With most students and faculty fully vaccinated, COVID restrictions for in-person practices are looser this year.
“Right now the masking rules say that anybody who’s outside doesn’t have to wear a mask at any time.,” Athletics Director Chris Hartley says. “If you’re indoors, everybody has to have masks on when they’re not working out.” During breaks, athletes will need masks on, but not when they’re out on the court, and adults must wear masks at all times indoors.
In addition to changing protocols, the pandemic has hindered training, which ultimately makes college recruitment this year more difficult. Mr. Hartley explains that the cancelling of meets due to COVID restrictions is challenging, “especially in the summertime [when] lots of athletes go to meets where they can get [official] times for individual sports like crew, swimming, and running.” Things have also changed at the colleges themselves. “Because of COVID, college athletics lost a whole bunch of money,” Mr. Hartley says. “So some colleges and universities [are] requiring teams to carry fewer students.” In addition, the new eligibility rule the NCAA has put in place states that 2020-2021 fall and winter sport athletes (and also spring sport athletes for Division 3) are eligible for an extra year at their respective colleges. “Not everybody wants to do that,” Mr. Hartley says, “But [it still] means there’s fewer spots for new freshmen to come in because those fifth year seniors are coming back.”
In the meantime, there are still ways for student athletes to make up for missed seasons. Athletes can reach out to college coaches or do more research into specific programs. Another way is to make a skills video to showcase agility and technical ability. Last year, the athletics department assisted students who could not compete by filming them doing agility work. “[This way,] the college coaches had a sense of how fast they were or how agile they were,” says Mr. Hartley.
Hopefully, as the year progresses, the pandemic will ease and sports will return to normal again. For now, uncertainty remains. “Obviously, with the delta variant and the numbers as they’re happening, we might have to change things,” Mr. Hartley says, “But my hope is that we can continue having a normal athletic season.”