Now that the spring semester is in full swing, we can begin to look forward to finally talking sports again at UMass Boston. The last time we were talking about sports here at UMass Boston, we would have to go back all the way to last spring, when all spring sports were cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It is safe to say that things back then were a lot different, and the health and safety protocols were a lot looser than they will be this spring semester and moving into fall. Now, let's explore what sports might be like once quarantine is officially over, and everyone is allowed to return to campus.
The most ideal scenario would be for everyone to return to school in person in the Fall 2021 semester. Does that mean that everything will return to normal, and that there will be no masks and no social distancing? Probably not. I am no health expert myself, but without everybody getting vaccinated, chances are classes will require students to wear some sort of mask, and sporting events will likely have limited fan attendance with strict social distancing rules.
This will likely add a certain amount of pressure to every athlete attending classes in the fall semester. If a student athlete cannot get vaccinated for whatever reason, they will have to exert an immense amount of caution while on campus. Not only will student athletes have to be wary to avoid getting the virus, but they also have to worry about if they may or may not have been in contact with someone who carried the virus. Just as we saw in professional sports, if contact tracing goes all the way back to someone who is on a sports team, odds are that team will have to quarantine, therefore causing their team to potentially forfeit games. This ultimately could hurt chances of making it into conference tournaments.
All this added pressure will likely be enough of an incentive for student athletes to decide to choose online classes during their athletic seasons. I can say firsthand, after being in online classes for a year now, that it is not the most ideal way of learning. Students are constantly muting their mics and not showing their screens, because they’re not fully engaged with what they are being taught at the time. After having several professors tell us that looking at a screen only hurts a student’s attention span and their overall ability to learn, it seems a bit unfair that we are being forced to learn this way. This is why it could be problematic for a student athlete to resort to learning solely online to accommodate their athletic season, because if a student athlete struggles in their online courses, it could translate to bad play or maybe even losing eligibility due to poor grades.
There are a lot of factors that will have to go into our first semester back at school. Unless COVID-19 is officially wiped off the face of the earth, student athletes will likely feel immense pressure with all the obstacles they will have to endure to make sure they remain as healthy as possible for each of their respective sports seasons. The hope is that everyone can stay healthy while attending classes in person, so we can get somewhat close to returning to life prior to the pandemic.