When the Saint Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) cancelled all remaining sports in March of 2020, student athletes were devastated. The Blackburn baseball team had to return to campus from Texas, and shortly after all students were directed to go home and continue the semester virtually.
On Saturday, Feb.y 6, the Blackburn women’s volleyball team competed in their first match in over a year against Fontbonne University. On paper, this would look like a regularly scheduled conference matchup, but it was more than that. This game signified the first Blackburn volleyball game in over a year, and the first sporting event for Blackburn since March of 2020. This match previewed the remainder of the volleyball season and SLIAC indoor sports in general. With the new COVID guidelines and restrictions, indoor sports will not look the same.
The main changes made for this season are the no fan rule, no use of the locker rooms, and a mask requirement.
All outside guests, including students, are prohibited from attending games, but have the option to stream them virtually. This restriction changes the game dramatically by limiting the number of supporters for each team and minimizing crowd noise during games. Many athletes feed off of the crowd’s energy, so this could change athletes’ performances. Family members are required to stay home and stream the games, which can put a toll on the athletes as well. “It was a bummer that my parents couldn’t attend my first college game,” said freshman Emilee King, “but it is nice that they can watch it online.”
The locker rooms serve as more than just a place to change into jerseys before the game. For many teams a locker room creates an energy and bonding space for the team, before taking the floor. The pregame huddle often takes place in the locker room, where the coaches present the team with the game plan. Without the use of the locker rooms, athletes are getting ready individually, which alters the mood before the game even begins.
Head Volleyball Coach Morgan Hauser said, “Our players have adjusted to the new restrictions with the mindset: We will do whatever it takes to play. They have been mindful and responsible to adhere to all restrictions. I am very proud of their grit, perseverance, and positive attitudes.” This volleyball game gave insight into what other indoor sports will look like for Blackburn, and how the new COVID guidelines will impact the games played.