Much uncertainty remains for the fall semester regarding classes, athletics and campus life. But Penn State’s club sports teams will still try to bring athletic competition back to the students who crave it.
Once Penn State officially moved to remote learning for the remainder of the spring semester amid the coronavirus pandemic, club sports went on hiatus and have remained dormant ever since.
Despite difficult circumstances, fencing club’s president Jason Nucciarone is hopeful his team can return in some form this fall.
“I am confident that we can have practice if everyone follows social distancing and respects the rules,” Nucciarone said. “We’re really going to be pushing for facemasks and make sure that people who have been exposed or have tested positive stay away so we can continue making sure everyone [on the team] is safe.”
Nucciarone (junior-information sciences and technology) said he has talked with Penn State’s coordinator for competitive sports, Sylvain Tchaptchet, and was told club sports will return to Penn State in three phases.
In the first phase, all activities and interactions will be virtual.
Barring setbacks, club sports teams will eventually be able to move into a second phase where members can meet in groups of two with no physical contact while wearing masks.
The third phase will permit teams to congregate in controlled groups and have limited contact with each other so long as participants still wear masks.
Senior associate director of campus recreation Lisa Stuppy told the Collegian in a statement that the coronavirus has forced the university to change how it approaches all aspects of in-person learning.
“We have had to be flexible in our approach and uphold CDC, state and university guidelines and expectations,” Stuppy said in a statement. “We are making decisions about our clubs and participation/travel that are congruent of what all clubs and organizations are doing across campus.”
In hopes of a return to group workouts, Nucciarone said the fencing club will take extra precautions to ensure the safety of all of its members. Nucciarone said if the school allows club sports teams to practice, fencing club members will have an added layer of protection.
“We are talking to a lot of fencing gear vendors that are actually making face masks designed to go under our masks, so we are requiring that everybody pick one up and get one to wear at practice,” Nucciarone said.
The fencing-specific mask will look like it is from a movie, according to Nucciarone.
It will have a carbon filter which goes in front of the mouth and nose, yet allows for the deep breathing typical of intense exercise.
Nucciarone also said Penn State’s club sports department is looking to provide a coronavirus relief fund for sports clubs that would cover cleaning supplies, face masks, thermometer guns and more.
Regardless of precautions taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in club sports, the yearly in-person involvement fair on the HUB lawn will be replaced by a group of virtual options.
Ninety-second videos produced by club sports teams will be available on Flipgrid, a cluster of five minute videos with team members will be live streamed on YouTube from August 25-27, and information on all club sports teams will be available on OrgCentral.
Yet women’s club ultimate frisbee captain Emily Kiver is concerned whether new members will join club sports teams like hers without any in-person interaction. Kiver (senior-international politics and earth science and policy) worries the already burdensome task of recruitment could prove problematic in a virtual platform.
“It certainly will be harder, just because we know at the involvement fair, it takes a lot of effort even to get someone to sign up,” Kiver said. “You have to really try and talk to somebody person-to-person, so it will probably be more difficult.”
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To combat the loss of an involvement fair, women’s club ultimate frisbee created a new website and will rely on social media like Twitter and Instagram, as well as word of mouth, to draw new members.
The fencing club has developed a similar website with an interest form, tutorials and recommended readings.
While Nucciarone would prefer the fencing club and other club sports teams not have to take such measures to return in the fall, he sees a silver lining from the situation.
“This is my second year serving as president for the fencing club and I definitely did not think that I would be getting this club through a pandemic,” Nucciarone said. “I definitely think this is a challenge that we will all come strong from as student leaders and just people in general.”