COVID-19 impacts varsity athletes

Ryder Brookes, Sports Reporter

With government restrictions due to COVID-19 limiting access to training facilities and cutting seasons short, Whitman varsity athletes are left uncertain about the future and how to navigate training for the upcoming season from home.

With over 90 percent of the country under some version of a shelter-in-place order, varsity athletes face reduced access to facilities and resources they rely on to train.

However, the inability to practice forces teams to be creative and find ways to maintain their performance under restrictive legislation. Junior volleyball player Sonja Fauske is helping her team find ways to sustain morale and training routines despite being far away from one another.

“We put together ‘support groups’ of three-to-four teammates to keep each other accountable and motivated,” Fauske said. “We send video clips of us working out and use the small group platform to have more individual contact to share ideas.”

Some sports are impacted more than others with facilities being off-limits. First-year swimmer Jackson Masson is finding it difficult to stick to his usual training, for obvious reasons.

“Mandatory restrictions have put a big restraint on me, personally.  Being a swimmer, I can’t find any pools that are open,” Masson said. “I try to stay active because I am not sure how long it will be before I can get back into the water.”

While most students were on campus when Whitman President Kathy Murray announced classes were cancelled, Fauske was halfway across the world.

“I was studying abroad in Denmark this semester and experienced quite an interesting perspective while being sent home,” Fauske said. “The program handled the sudden change in an organized manner and urged us to book a flight for the next day or two before anything prevented us from getting home.”

The cancellation of spring sports was devastating for athletes – especially seniors. For many, a final opportunity to play the sports they love didn’t come to fruition this year.

“I can imagine that it is really hard for senior athletes right now.  I don’t think that this reality could have been avoided though,” Masson said. “I believe that the college should give senior athletes that had their seasons cut short an extra year of eligibility. If they wanted to stay an extra year and play, they should be able to.”

At Whitman, many view the physical and mental health of student-athletes as a high priority. When asked if COVID-19 will have any long-term impacts on how college athletics are run in the future, Fauske seemed uncertain yet hopeful.

“Will there be more sanitation? More health tests? No idea. Hopefully there will be more focus on student-athlete health and well-being,” Fauske said.

Masson is also uncertain if the virus will have any impacts on next year’s season.

“I honestly do not know what procedures will look like going forward. I believe it all depends on how bad this virus gets/how long it lasts,” Masson said. “I could see limiting travel as much as possible and not doing training trips to limit social interactions between athletes and other people.”

Even though this pandemic is shaking up the sports world at Whitman and around the country, it has brought athletes together. As the present and future remain uncertain, Fauske is keeping her head held high and trying to make the most of her situation. With an immense appreciation for her teammates and coaches, she has all the inspiration she needs to work hard for the upcoming season. 

“Being a college athlete during this pandemic has taught me about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation,” Fauske said. “I look at this time as a chance to explore what motivates me. It also shows how much I look to my teammates to fuel me, both because they are the greatest people ever and because we all work hard for each other. So, I have them, myself and my supportive coaches to train for.”