Recreational sports are often used as an opportunity for not only exercise, but also as an outlet to engage with other students. They provide an escape from reality, even if it’s just for a couple hours. Despite increasing concerns around COVID-19, UNC Campus Recreation is working to provide sports in some capacity this fall.
Here is an outline for what is currently being planned for the fall semester.
One of the biggest changes for intramural sports will be the absence of the larger, team-oriented sports and competition. A major factor in this decision was trying to limit the contact that students have with each other, as well as not having enough officials due to not being able to train them.
The smaller or individual intramural sports will happen, with those that usually take place inside set to be moved outside.
Esports, or playing video games competitively, will still happen this fall but won’t take place in person, Justin Ford, an assistant director of sport programs at Campus Recreation said.
Some intramural sports and programs will be virtual, including some forms of fitness training and classes.
One new component that will be offered is weekly virtual trivia nights sponsored by Campus Recreation. The goal behind these new virtual programs is to “reach just about every student,” Ford said.
COVID-19 testing will not be required of students in order to be eligible to participate in intramural activities.
All club teams are going to be operating on a practice-only basis for the foreseeable future, but even practice could be cancelled depending on evolving COVID-19 guidelines, said Tori Hooker, a senior assistant director of sports programs at Campus Recreation.
It will be up to the teams to decide how they want to handle practices instead of one set of universal standards.
There have been meetings between the clubs and the heads of the sports programs at Campus Recreation to determine what the best route is for each individual team. Some clubs are considered high-risk or low-risk based on level of activity and the proximity of teammates, Hooker said.
The equestrian team, for example, is considered a low-risk organization. There is minimal contact and riders are already socially distanced from other competitors, but the club has still made significant changes to the way they will go about practices.
“We are wearing masks while we’re in the barn getting ready for practice and we’re going to be sanitizing all the surfaces between groups," Tia Sparks, the head of the equestrian team, said. "We’ve also split our practices up into smaller groups for this year; we normally have four practice groups each week, and we’re splitting that into 10 or 12 this year so we can have fewer people out there at a time."
The men’s rugby club, on the other hand, is a high-risk sport due to the level of contact that takes place. As a result, the club has had to shift its activities for practices. The main focus is now on fitness training and skill work, as neither involves contact and both can be performed while socially distanced.
Like the equestrian team, practices could also be broken down into smaller groups if necessary. The team is also required to clean all equipment after use and to limit the number of individuals who use one item during training sessions.
“We are all eagerly awaiting the go-ahead for contact again since, well, rugby just isn't rugby without contact,” Phillip Patterson, the team's captain, said.
However, Patterson said he does understand that these health measures are all for the best.
“While it seems we're doing all of this begrudgingly, we recognize the importance of these measures to ensure the safety of the students and our players, so we will be adhering to whatever the (sports recreation) team tells us.“
Hooker said the changes aren't permanent and could change depending on the evolving situation surrounding the coronavirus.
“We haven’t said this is for the remainder of the semester," Hooker said. "We’re just trying to take it a little at a time so that we can see and be as accommodating as possible to our sport clubs but within a safe manner … if data points to the ability to be able to loosen the restrictions later in the semester, then we want to be able to consider and make those accommodations as well.”
Prioritizing health is the main factor in these modifications and structural changes.
“We are taking everyone’s health and safety into consideration and that is the reason why there are limited hours, reduced capacities and limited programs," Ford said. "We’re still trying to provide activities and opportunities for students, faculty and staff, but first and foremost we are taking into consideration the health and safety of the Carolina community.”
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