When the coronavirus pandemic forced UT to shut down in March, club sports were in full swing. The handball team had just hosted their collegiate national tournament on campus, and both the men and women’s ultimate frisbee teams were about to host a large national tournament in Austin.
“It really just destroyed our season,” said Caroline O’Connell, captain of the women’s ultimate frisbee team.
With the spring and summer seasons lost to the virus, club sports are hoping that they’ll be able to return to the practice field in the fall, even if official games against other teams and colleges are off the table.
“Being able to practice is astronomical,” said Eric Allen, club baseball vice president. “Having time to get back into form is pretty essential. … For a lot of these teams who have been off since March and are unable to do anything, it’s going to be pretty damaging.”
The University’s recreational sports department is currently in Phase I of its three phases for reopening. For Phase II, RecSports has designated each sport as green, yellow or red, which are statuses for potential return issued by the Olympic Committee.
Thirteen of the 48 club sports, including running, table tennis and baseball, are green, meaning they’ll be able to practice in Phase II. Those sports will have to comply with new regulations, which include practice attendance logs and the addition of authorized safety officers for each team.
“We would have a split-team practice,” biochemistry junior Allen said. “So that could look like half of our team hitting in the cages while the other half works on defense.”
Other sports in the yellow or red statuses will have to wait for Phase III due to space limitations and contact. For the sports with an unclear return, one hurdle for the fall semester is just trying to keep the team together.
“Our goal for this semester is member retention,” said Avery Shepherd, handball team president and anthropology and biology senior. “We’ll have Zoom workouts every other week. Other times, we’ll have game nights so we can all get together socially because having a club sport isn't all about just working out and being part of a team — it's also about friendship.”
Recruiting is another challenge. Shepherd and Allen said they’re both worried about getting the word out to freshmen.
“Normally, we might get 80 signing up each year, but that comes with being in person and asking people on Speedway during orientation,” said O’Connell, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student. “With the 20 or so freshmen that signed up this year, we know each one of them is really interested and will probably show up.”
Even with all the uncertainty around returning to practice, Allen, O’Connell and Shepherd all said they’ve appreciated how RecSports has handled the situation.
“I have a lot of respect for what our RecSports supervisors are doing to make sure we’re staying updated,” Shepherd said. “They’ve done a great job with handling that and advocating for us to the University.”