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COVID-19 changes how Western athletes train

Former Western athlete Tyler Payne runs out to the court before a game. Photo by Nick Sadigh

The Men’s basketball team is preparing for the upcoming season amid social distancing requirements.

By Ryan Myrvold

Athletes on Western’s basketball team are training while adhering to social distancing requirements. This raises the question: how will athletes perform, and how will fans cheer for their team this season?

According to NPR and Science Daily, athletes across national and international sports leagues are seeing an increase in injuries after having fewer in-person practices and conditioning sessions due to distancing requirements caused by COVID-19.

Tony Dominguez, the head coach of Western’s Men’s basketball team, said he remains optimistic about the season despite these challenges.

“We will have a long time to get conditioned before we play games,” Dominguez said. “We’re just trying to get our chemistry down, and that’s hard to do when you’re six feet apart.”

Dale Cannavan, department chair and associate professor of Exercise Science at Seattle Pacific University, said we may see an increased amount of injuries this season, especially ACL tears.

“This really depends on how conditioned the athletes have stayed,” Cannavan said.

The increase of injuries in the NHL, NFL and Union of European Football Associations has been caused by a lack of conditioning and there is no real precedent to follow for this situation according to Cannavan. This raises concerns for athletes this season.

Cannavan said that athletes may not be conditioned to play games without simulated matches and scrimmages because of the differences in routine conditioning and playing. He added that the team may not be ready to play effectively without doing whole team drills.

“Communication might be an issue and learning how to practice all those drills appropriately and be in the right place at the right time,” Cannavan said. “If you don’t have those mental, visual strategies in place, then you’re of course going to work harder physiologically.”

The additional strain placed on the body from these effects may cause additional injuries, Cannavan said.

The Great Northwest Athletic Conference has postponed all athletic competitions until Jan. 7,

2021, in order to better suit the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Braden Ahlemeyer, a forward for Western’s men’s basketball team, remains similarly optimistic about the upcoming season.

“In seasons past, we haven’t been able to really take time and work on individual skills,” Ahlemeyer said. “I think it’s kinda cool that this is making us take our time, go back and kinda focus on fundamentals.”

In addition to the difficulties in training, athletes must also prepare for the reality that they may be playing without fans.

“It’s gonna be a totally different environment,” Ahlemeyer said. “It’s hard to play in a dead gym, especially at your own court.”

Dominguez has an optimistic perspective and is prepared to take advantage of this unique situation to reach a wider audience.

“We’re kind of the outlet to cheer on your university in person, there're lots of ways to root-on your school, but it seems that athletics is a way to cheer for Western in person and show their school spirit,” Dominguez said. “It’ll be different, but it could be a unique way to reach people who may not have come to games in the past.”

According to the Western Washington University athletics page, fans may be able to stream games, watch them on television or hear detailed accounts of the games over the radio for the 2021 season.

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