Even though Binghamton University Division I teams have started practicing again, practices are far from normal.
The men’s soccer team is just one of several BU teams functioning differently during the coronavirus pandemic. Since the team is not playing its season until the spring, they are not allowed to have full team practices and players must wear facial coverings and social distance when feasible.
“Right now, we are practicing in groups of 10,” said senior midfielder and team captain Noah Luescher. “We’re in small groups still, just trying to be responsible and not take any risks. We are just trying to make the right decisions now to make sure we are all safe.”
Even with these safety precautions in place, the pandemic is difficult for student-athletes to escape.
“One of our teammates actually tested positive, so they had to go into quarantine,” Luescher said. “So their apartment was in quarantine for 14 days and they are going through the protocol to come back right now.”
When it was announced on July 17 that fall sports will be played in the spring, Luescher said that the team was gutted to hear the news. However, he is much more concerned with public safety than playing time.
“Right now, there are bigger issues at hand,” Luescher said. “We’re in a global pandemic, so I think it was the right call [to move fall sports to the spring], but we were definitely disappointed. But the safety of everyone is much more important than playing the season. There are bigger issues at hand, so we’re glad that we can possibly play the season in the spring.”
COVID-19 doesn’t just interrupt playing time — it also interrupts team comradery. The players could not see each other for six months and must now stick to their assigned groups, ultimately unable to function as a whole. Despite the delegation of groups, the team has found ways to stay connected via Zoom calls, group chats over Snapchat, GroupMe and text messages, socially distanced hangouts and even a book club.
While the upperclassmen are familiar with each other and may not need to see each other as much to stay connected, the pandemic poses a unique and difficult challenge for the freshman members.
“We have three freshmen right now that live on campus and for them, it’s definitely been tough, but I think they’re doing a great job,” Luescher said. “They’re not in my pod — they’re practicing with the sophomores right now, but I try to reach out to them as much as I can and see how they’re doing, and I think they’re doing pretty well. They like it here so far and they’re doing a really good job of adjusting to the situation. They’re doing what they can to be a part of the team.”
In a B-Line News Addition on Wednesday morning, BU President Harvey Stenger announced that the University will be pausing in-person activities for two weeks, which includes all in-person activity for the athletics teams. Knowing that there’s a possibility that the University could shut down for the rest of the fall semester and possibly the spring semester, Luescher’s goals are fluid, but optimistic for the spring season.
“Our goal is to stay here as long as possible, to be on the field as long as possible, so we can best prepare for the spring season if there is one, which we are optimistic that there is, but right now there are so many uncertain things,” Luescher said. “You never know when the message can come out that school’s gonna be shut down, so we just want to be here as long as we can to get to the highest level of our fitness and playing abilities to just be ready for the spring season.”