University of Wisconsin-La Crosse athletes has had to follow many different and new rules to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) had suspended all athletics, and this ruling continued into Fall 2020. While the NCAA granted an allotted number of practices to sports, members of the UWL women’s soccer team feel that finally, things are returning to a sense of normalcy.
According to UWL sophomores Ainsley Allan and Sydney Halstead, the team had started off practicing in small groups at the beginning of Fall 2020.
“It was hard not seeing everyone in training because we are so used to having practices of over 20 people,” said Allan. However, the team was eventually sanctioned to practice as a team, as long as they continued to follow the guidelines that were placed at the time. According to Halstead, this included avoiding touching the ball with their hands, social distancing, wearing masks, and continually sanitizing equipment.
While these rules have been in place, both athletes say that it has been worth it to be back practicing with the team. However, both have noticed the challenges teams can face with the guidelines and restrictions.
“This is so different than what we experienced as freshmen because we were with our teammates every single day for months, which was great for bonding and team chemistry,” said Halstead. “The freshmen have done a great job, but I just can’t imagine what they have had to go through.”
Allan shared similar thoughts on the challenge to find team chemistry. She said, “Our atmosphere is not quite the same. We just did not get the same bonding experience in the fall that we had my freshman year.”
While both say the team is on their way to finding their chemistry, Halstead attributes a lot of the success to their coach, Jason Murphy. “Coach continually encourages us to reach out to see each other outside of soccer, and to hang out with people we maybe would not have seen otherwise,” said Halstead. “He really understands how important team bonding and chemistry are for our sport.”
In addition to practices, the team has recently been sanctioned scrimmages to occur sometime in the spring. In addition to this, limited numbers of fans will be allowed to watch. “We are just so excited to get back into it,” said Halstead. “I know so many of our parents just want to watch us play.”
While both athletes are excited about being able to compete, they both have found areas to reflect on in the past year. “I have learned to take advantage of every opportunity and time that we are given,” said Allan.
Similarly, Halstead says that she feels more gratitude towards her time as an athlete. “I have taken more appreciation that I can even play sports and that the university is allowing us to do so,” said Halstead.
To find out more information about the UWL Women’s Soccer team, visit the UWL athletics website. For more information about the UWL Women’s Soccer team schedule and games, click here.