The New “Normal” for Ursinus College Athletics

Photograph Courtesy of David Morgan

Kevin Melton

Sean McGinley

To say athletics are an important part of Ursinus culture would be an understatement. With over a third of the student body at Ursinus being a part of a varsity team, and many more students partaking in club and intramural sports, academics and athletics are closely tied to each other on campus. Unfortunately for student-athletes, in early June the Centennial Conference, the NCAA Division III conference to which Ursinus belongs, formally announced the cancellation of fall sports.

It is safe to say that this development brought a fair amount of dismay to college athletes. For some, it meant another season of sports being cancelled, after Ursinus ended the spring sports season on March 12. For others, specifically seniors who play fall sports, it could mean the potential end to their athletic careers at Ursinus College, an unfortunate byproduct of a pandemic that has made an impact in all aspects of everyday life for the past seven to eight months in the United States.

The many freshman athletes on campus have had to adjust to a very different start to their collegiate careers — after losing out on the ends of their high school careers. Tyler Sargent, a freshman on the cross country team, noted that, “Senior year is supposed to be the pinnacle of your high school career, especially with athletics. It just felt like we got robbed of that last year and all the experiences we could have had.”

The fact that the Centennial Conference has called for the closure of all “inter-collegiate competition” does not mean that all team events and practices have been canceled, however. Student-athletes have had to get used to wearing masks and staying six feet apart during practice, a change that can prove to be a bit of a challenge in team sport environments. Kaitlyn McGinley, a junior on the women’s volleyball team, says in her sport, “Having to be six feet apart is a bit weird because we don’t play on the biggest court, which makes things harder to communicate.”

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of changes in sports, collegiate or otherwise, over the past year. For student-athletes, the pandemic has required them not just to prepare for the potential changes happening at school, but on the playing field as well. Despite the many unknowns happening right now, McGinley has maintained a positive outlook, telling others to “always keep their heart on the court every time they step onto it.” There is not much better advice for student-athletes during such uncertain times.