Fall sports have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but teams are still training. Practice looks different this year, though, as teams follow social distancing guidelines.
Webster athletes are masked up and socially distant in order to begin training for their 2020-21 seasons. The fall sports have already been postponed to the spring, and athletes and teams have strict safety guidelines in order to begin practicing.
“The priority is safety first,” Webster Athletic Director Scott Kilgallon said. “That means following the university’s safety guidelines in terms of social distancing and masking up. We have to do that right before we can move to phase two, which is getting our teams to practice together in some form.”
Formal team practices are scheduled to begin on Sept. 14, but Kilgallon admitted that it is a fluid situation that could change in the coming weeks.
Teams are being restricted for their initial workouts. The volleyball team will only be allowed to hit a ball against the wall and do drills that do not involve several players contacting the same ball. The basketball teams are restricted to only six players in the gym at a time. Each player has to stay at their own hoop, use their own ball, wear a mask and take temperature checks.
Sophomore guard Wynn Brown Jr. is hopeful that the basketball season will start on time.
“If we keep taking precautions,” Brown Jr. said, “we’ll be good to go for a season.”
Brown Jr. hopes that by the time basketball season starts, the team won’t have to wear masks during the games.
“[Masks] would make it very hard to breathe in a live game and would be a distraction,” Brown Jr. said. “It’s manageable [during practice], but I don’t think it would work [during a game].”
Senior cross country runner Kaleigh Finney agreed it’d be tough to wear a mask during competition.
“[Running in a mask] is not pleasant,” Finney said, “and sometimes it kind of gets stuck in your mouth, but we gotta do it in order to stay safe.”
The cross country teams have had to run in smaller groups and organize their runs to make sure they don’t cross paths with other runners.
With fall sports already postponed, winter sports are still up in the air regarding if they will start on-time or be postponed. “It really could go either way,” Kilgallon said. “We expect a decision to be made sometime near the end of September, even if it’s that we’re delaying our decision.”
Kilgallon said there are a lot of people working on trying to put together a plan for the athletics seasons to play out. One issue they are facing is that the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference has programs in four states, so they have to conform to interstate guidelines.
“Our goal is to put safety first,” Kilgallon said, “and then give our athletes the best experience possible given the restrictions in place.”