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How UT Athletics will Adapt to Unprecedented Changes

By Jessie Tobin 

On Saturday, July 18, the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) announced all Fall sport competitions are postponed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Following the announcement, The University of Tampa’s director of athletics, Larry Marfise, announced in agreement with the SSC Council that UT’s Fall sports would not participate in the regularly scheduled competitions. 

Competitions will not begin for men’s and women’s soccer teams, men’s and women’s cross-country teams, and women’s volleyball until January of 2021. While these athletes and coaches wait until the next chance to compete, UT will still allows these sports to continue training and conditioning. 

“To be honest, I think it was expected,” said Adrian Bush, head coach of the men’s soccer team. “As much as the competitive nature in me wants to play and coach my team, the safety of the student athletes needs to remain above everything. The SSC president’s and [athletic director] made the right decision to postpone Fall sports considering the facts in place.” 

Even with these setbacks, there is potential for athletes to become more physically fit while they maintain training and will miss less class due to less time spent traveling to competitions. 

“There are some positive twists on the cancellation,” said Frank Catanach, head coach of the women’s volleyball team. “Our freshmen will have an entire semester to acclimate to UT and their new teammates, in normal years, they have 17 days to adjust to everything. Our team now has a full semester to get stronger, faster, and more skilled in preparation for the Spring season. I don’t believe we would have made it through the season without cancellation of games since the odds of being exposed or infected are really high.”

Some athletes, especially seniors, now have to consider redshirting, which is when an athlete sits out a season to gain another season of eligibility. Some of the time, athletes will take a year off to work on their skills or recover from an injury, but now UT athletes may consider sticking around another year to finish their career the way they imagined before the pandemic.

“It will be tough for the seniors because they qualified for NCAA Nationals last year and wanted to return,” said Jarrett Slaven, head coach of the women’s cross country team. “A couple are thinking of a redshirt season so they can return for a fifth season. It will be rough on the freshmen as well because they are excited to be a college athlete.”

The postponement of regularly scheduled competitions leaves some UT athletes with a new outlook on their season and now have to take on a new mindset for training. 

“As a senior, I really wanted to win a national championship again and compete with the best teams. Now we are not even sure if we will have a championship in the Spring,” said Melissa Elias, a senior on the women’s volleyball team. “I will try looking at this time as an opportunity to get better and improve before the season starts. Since we will be having an off-season, it will be a good time to spend with teammates and really focus on school.” 

Athletes will still be able to train and generally condition during the next couple of months. UT is allowing athletics to practice and use the Martinez training center as long as athletes and coaches can follow new regulations. Teams must practice social distancing and ensure that the weight training room is wiped down after each use. 

All athletes have to work on their goals for the Spring and try to keep up a positive mindset for the next couple of months.

 “Our team is known to bounce back from misfortunes. We will continue to train and be ready for when competition returns,” said Sean Knapp, junior on the men’s cross country team. “There are still many opportunities on the horizon. While racing and competition is a huge part of running, I am grateful for the ability to still be active and physically fit.” 

The decision for whether or not Winter sports, men and women’s swimming, and men’s and women’s basketball, to be able to compete will be announced on Thursday, Oct. 1. If the competitions for Winter sports are postponed, the season will also be moved to the Spring season. 

“I do not want to worry about what we cannot control but instead focus on the positives like still being able to train with my teammates,” said Hana Van Loock, senior on the women’s swimming team. “I plan on having fun and enjoying my final season with this amazing team, ending my career on a good note.” 

For sports with more contact, such as basketball, the cancelation of Fall sports has some players on the basketball team worried about their season. 

“As of now, we will only be playing conference games, and if that’s the case, I would not redshirt, but if the whole season was canceled, I’d absolutely consider redshirting,” said Kaleb Karnes, junior on the men’s basketball team. “The cancelation is definitely tough mentally to stay ready, but I want to keep a good attitude [and] stay in shape.”

Julia Ingram, a senior on the women’s basketball team, said the uncertainty surrounding the Winter sport cancelations makes her nervous. Still, she thinks the decision will ultimately be for the best. 

“I am more determined than ever,” said Ingram. “Even if our season gets postponed or cut short, I want to make every second count. Every practice, weight room training session and even sprints on the track will be special to me because this is my last go-around and I don’t want to regret anything.”

 

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