When school shutdowns began in March as a result of the coronavirus, all Binghamton sports ceased operations in light of safety concerns on campus. In addition to all Division I sports, club sports were also forced to cancel play in the spring and have not returned to a normal schedule since.
“It’s obviously very difficult for everybody, but rugby especially since it’s a contact sport,” said Andrew Hines, president of the men’s rugby team and a senior majoring in English.
Rugby is one of 20 fully competitive club sports at Binghamton. Since physicality is an essential element of the game, it faces extra limitations in safely practicing along with sports like soccer, lacrosse and field hockey. Only three athletes can be on the field at a time, and only 10 total athletes are allowed to practice at once for a sport. Additionally, balls must be sanitized and masks must be worn. Hines sets up practice slots for reduced training capacity, but that still limits what skills can be taught during practices.
“It’s been really challenging because we aren’t able to teach aspects of the game to new players,” Hines said.
Like most club sports, rugby is open to students with any level of experience. New players often join knowing very little of the sport, but are currently limited to passing and conditioning when it comes to training due to COVID-19 safety guidelines. Even more experienced members of the team returned to practice without any real training during the summer break.
“I think a lot of people just stayed home and tried to be safe with everything, so as a collective group we’re not in the shape that we would be during this time,” Hines said.
Under normal circumstances, men’s rugby begins its preseason practice two weeks before the start of school. However, this year’s practices were not held. Intercollegiate competitive games also ceased and are not set to resume in the near future.
“We weren’t given a timetable on it,” Hines said. “My educated guess on it is that it just doesn’t exist because they have to see how everyone responds to the rules.”
Club sports are currently following a three-phase reopening plan. As of now, phase one is active and its guidelines are being closely followed by men’s rugby. If the pandemic weakens, sports will transition into phase two, further peeling back safety regulations until the third phase in which games can finally resume. While Division I sports are currently scheduled to resume in the spring of 2021, club sports have no set date for their return.
While men’s rugby plays in both fall and spring, the prior tends to be the more competitive of the two seasons. Members of the men’s rugby team seemed disappointed that they will have to wait another few months before they can begin playing under normal conditions.
“Mentally it’s been hard,” Hines said. “We don’t have any games or anywhere to go to show the work that we put in.”