Everyone’s daily routines have been somewhat altered since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. People around the world are working remotely from home and students are left taking all of their courses online. Most in-person activities on campus have been halted as well, but what about University of Wisconsin Athletics? We know teams are gradually returning to practice, and football is set to return next week, but how does COVID-19 affect their usual procedures?
The Badger Herald spoke with Rob Krill, a senior on the UW men’s tennis team, about the new procedures and protocols that he and his team have experienced since their return to campus for the 2020-21 school year and the impact it has had on their team.
“When we originally got back to campus in August and were cleared to practice, we were tested pretty much every week, but recently they have been testing us about every two weeks,” Krill said.
Krill told me that this semester has looked pretty different for the team, especially when it comes to tournaments.
“We usually travel as a team with our coaches during the fall semester, but this semester we’re kind of traveling on our own,” Krill said. “I came back home to Milwaukee this past week to use my parents’ car to drive to a tournament because I do not have a car in Madison.”
These tournaments are available for any collegiate player in the country. Last week, Krill was in Minneapolis playing at the University of Minnesota with some other members of the team. Krill said junior players are also able to participate in these tournaments and that they tend to draw in people from all over the area.
Krill said he is currently talking with his teammates and coaches about other tournaments to play this semester.
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“I went back home before I left for Minnesota and am still here planning out a tournament schedule for the rest of fall,” Krill said. “Right now I’m just trying to get a couple of tournaments lined up so then I can plan out going back and forth between home and Madison.”
Being at home, Krill practices on his own but said he misses being in Madison with the team and training with his coaches, as well as being able to practice at the on-campus facilities.
The team is not having a formal fall season this year. Even with all of the uncertainty, a majority of the team did come back to Madison this semester despite being given the option to stay home if they did not feel comfortable returning to campus. While they are still able to practice together, Krill and the rest of the team are staying hopeful about a potential season in the spring.
In terms of the current conditions of team practices, Krill said that everything is the same besides having to wear a mask at certain times while playing.
“We are still hitting six days a week when we are all in Madison,” Krill said. “When we play inside or go to the gym, we have to wear a mask but when we are outside, we don’t. The athletic department gave us Under Armour sports masks to practice and workout in. I really don’t feel too much of a difference when I play with one on.”
Of course, there is always the issue of someone on the team testing positive for the virus. As we have seen throughout the professional leagues who have created a plan to return to play, a foolproof plan can still have its flaws.
“We had one teammate test positive about a month or so ago and we had to shut down the facilities completely for two weeks while we all quarantined,” Krill said. “Once we got the okay to return to practice everything was back to normal again.”
Though the positive test was a bump in the road for the team, they took the two-week hiatus seriously in order to ensure their ability to return to the courts.
While taking classes online may create an entirely different school environment, Krill explained that his itinerary actually is similar to semesters past.
“With classes being online, it’s honestly a little more flexible,” Krill said. “I still wake up, do my school work, have practice from around 2:15 until 6:00, and then do my homework and go to bed. There is not too much of a difference.”
Moving toward the end of the semester, the team remains hopeful of a more or less “regular” spring season. They will continue to practice throughout the week and independently participate in tournaments around the Midwest until they are hopefully able to make a return to their usual routine in Jan. 2021.