Practice, a New Technique

Hamline’s athletic teams have made big changes to adapt to Covid

Levi Jones, Sports Editor

Empty fields populated the Hamline campus over the summer. Places where teams had once prepared for weekly games lay abandoned as COVID-19 put an end to their spring seasons. As students endure through the pandemic and return to campus, so do Hamline’s athletes.

Although practices have resumed, they look different, and the games they practice for have been delayed until spring at the earliest. 

Women’s Soccer Coach Emily Cripe and her team were saddened by the changing situation, saying the team was “Disappointed and understanding given the current global pandemic.”

Hamline’s many athletes find themselves practicing under much different rules than before. When the pandemic broke out the NCAA released guidelines for practicing DIII teams. These guidelines help to guide schools in how to conduct practices, yet due to the diverse circumstances across the country they are not hard and fast rules and vary based on state regulations.

Hamline Athletics Director Jason Verdugo has overseen the changes being undertaken by Hamline. “We used a combination of the NCAA guidelines and the Minnesota Department of Health’s regulations for athletics,” said Verdugo “We took a hard look and asked how we can continue to train student athletes safely.” 

For teams that are still practicing, social distancing is required, as well as wearing masks at all times possible, though some aspects of training require them to be removed. Teams that gather for group practices do so in shifts of ten or fewer people

Football Head Coach Chip Taylor has implemented a system to meet these requirements, even in a high contact sport. 

“The guys are out there in groups of ten or less, two groups on opposite ends of the field, once per hour, one coach per group.” Said Coach Taylor. 

While the small group practices are required, who is in each group changes by team. The football team split their players up by where they live. If a lineman and a receiver live together, they practice together. Taylor described this as being safer, but it creates a mismatch of players practicing. 

While teams are adapting in their own way, each one requires access to the weightroom in order to do weight training. Director Verdugo gives credit for keeping the weight room running to Weight Room Strength Coach Chris Hartman.

Teams come into the weight room in scheduled small groups and each person has their own rack. Without spotters the athletes do their training and are responsible for cleaning their own equipment. Then the team leaves as a group. 

Verdugo says they haven’t run into any problems with teams adapting to the new system. However, if a team were to fail to meet the standards, the program would be “Shut down temporarily.”

Students have also made adjustments to how they practice. Athletic teams have always been very social groups, yet changes have forced students to adapt. 

Hamline senior Jarick Reifer is a part of the Track team and has tried to adapt to the changes. “I’ve tried to greet and welcome as many first years on the team as possible , but if they’re not in your small workout group it’s hard,” said Reifer, “as much as you want to feel as a unified team, when there’s 60 people and you don’t see them on a daily basis anymore it makes it tough to cheer on and motivate teammates through their struggles.”

Teams look forward to when they get to play again, yet no one is sure exactly when that might be. 

Coach Taylor has spoken with other MIAC football coaches about a return and sees a possibility of a 5 game season come spring. 

Coach Cripe sees a possibility of a 10 game season for Hamline’s women’s soccer team if things improve over the winter. 

Overall teams have made it through the adjustment period of the changes. “Hamline Pipers are agile so everyone has taken it in stride,” said Coach Cripe, “We understand it is our duty as citizens to protect others so we are going to do our part.  We are happy to be together, working hard, and getting better even if we have some limitations.” 

Taylor also believes that once the pandemic is over there are some things he would like to keep around in order to stay in contact with his team. “I like the way we did things, more Zoom over summer when guys are away from campus.” said Taylor.