Commentary by: Ben Prescott, sports editor 

It’s crazy to think how different campus was exactly one year ago. Despite the last year feeling like a century, the 2020-2021 academic year marked the first time that students were taking classes in person since March of 2020. While the year was undoubtedly hard for many people, sports also saw an impact. In this time of uncertainty, some questioned whether or not sports would be the same. 

Mary Claire Stockebrand | Campus Carrier

In July of 2020, the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) made the frustrating decision to suspend fall sports, with the goal of playing in the spring of 2021. Schools were allowed to meet and practice under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, which meant teams had to meet in smaller groups to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The decision was especially frustrating when high school athletics were allowed to continue in the state of Georgia, but some college athletic programs were not allowed. The same was said for professional sports leagues, like the NFL, who had a full season, albeit filled with COVID-19 protocols. 

Rette Solomon | Campus Carrier

Once spring arrived, sports still looked different across the conference. Seasons were shortened by 50% in order to retain an extra year of eligibility for student-athletes, namely the seniors who had to experience the shortened season because the NCAA cancelled championship games at the Division III level due to COVID-19. In my experience with football, the conference divided into east and west sections to reduce the number of big road trips. The SAA did set up a fun conference championship weekend, which involved the best team from the east and west parts of the conference to compete for an SAA title. In a historical moment, this was and will be the only year that football and the men’s basketball team won a conference championship on the same day. 

Packed stands were now barren, with little to no fans attending each of the games. Most of the fans stayed close to the group they came with, a stark contrast to how sports are usually consumed. At one point, there was a question of whether or not fans should be allowed at all. 

Covering sports during this time was complex, since all 22 sports were in season at the same time during the spring semester. On most weekends there were multiple games at once, stretching the sports information department thin on resources and personnel. As an employee with the department, I can say we were able to successfully cover all of the sports for the spring. 

Nolan Scoretz | Campus Carrier

Fast forward to the present, and things are seemingly back to normal. Fall sports started up like normal without any major issues. Athletes competed in a full season of games and the playoffs took place for the first time since the fall of 2019. While there was a spike in COVID-19 cases during the winter, sports still continued to compete into the spring semester. The Berry administration invited families and fans of Berry athletics back into the stands again, providing the exciting atmosphere that makes sports so much fun to watch. The sports information department has some breathing room to cover the sports in their respective seasons without issue. 

Rette Solomon | Campus Carrier

All of these things were something we took for granted, and we realized that after we saw them taken away from us in a matter of days. Sports have come a long way in the last year, but I hope that we have learned to hold onto the small things in life, even if it is just sports. There are obviously more important things in life than playing or watching a sport, but this moment in time is an example for years to come for how we should cherish these moments. Just ask the seniors of spring sports in March of 2020; I am sure they would say the same. 

Mask mandates also impacted the women’s basketball and indoor volleyball throughout the seasons of high spread of the COVID-19 virus. Both teams compete indoors in the Cage Athletic Center and continued season play during the spring of 2021 despite the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presented through varying COVID-19 testing regulations and wearing masks for practices and games. 

Posted by Campus Carrier

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