After a year without club sports, Loyola’s 25 club sports teams are finally back in action. While COVID-19 restrictions have altered their seasons, the teams are finding success while facing new challenges in their day-to-day operations.
Lance Boehm, the new sports program coordinator overseeing club sports, said the biggest change this year is simply having club sports at all. Last spring programs were limited with only a handful of clubs engaging in light conditioning sessions, he said.
That has all changed this fall, Boehm said.
“Club sports have been able to fully resume practice and even resume competition and travel to an extent, with modifications and protocols of course,” Boehm said in an email to The Phoenix.
He said new COVID-19 protocols are the same as the university’s requirements for the general student body. Club sports athletes are simply required to be fully vaccinated, with their vaccination card uploaded to the Loyola Health App.
Unlike Loyola’s Division I athletes, who are required to take coronavirus tests depending on the level of contact in their sport, club athletes don’t have the same requirement. Boehm said as long as the athlete is vaccinated, they’re not required to test regularly.
Still, other measures employed by Loyola Athletics also apply to club sports. Dominic Cinfio, tighthead prop and vice president of the men’s rugby executive board, said everyone — including players, referees and spectators — is required to be vaccinated or give proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of any home game. He said the rules give him peace of mind on the pitch.
“It’s nice knowing that everyone is going to be safe,” Cinfio said. “There’s not really any worries for games with COVID because there are set protocols to make it safe.”
Changes due to the pandemic have also made it harder to operate as safely and normally as possible — with new coronavirus requirements for players and concerns about preventing possible outbreaks. Cinfio said the pandemic made his team’s season shorter — only playing four games this fall — while the Great Midwest Conference, Loyola’s conference, dropped from 14 teams to 10.
Besides COVID-19 protocols, Cinfio sees Boehm as a key reason why club sports are operating effectively. He said Boehm, early in his first year in the position, has been essential in helping club sports return to normal seasons.
“He has been really great this year coming into his new role,” Cinfio said. “[He stresses] communicating and being open about what is going on in your season.”
Jack Johnson, vice president of the men’s ultimate frisbee team, said Boehm has helped club leaders like him address problems and ensure team operations run smoothly.
“He has been very responsive,” Johnson said. “When we have had troubles with him, he has met with us and talked, so we could solve things pretty easily.”
Boehm said almost all Loyola club teams have experienced an increase in interest since he began in his position.
Johnson said the men’s ultimate frisbee team has a large group of rookies who have integrated well into the team. Likewise, Cinfio said he has noticed the increase of members on the rugby team, helping make the team much stronger after over a year without a season.
“It’s good that we got a lot of numbers,” Cinfio said. “My freshman year, which was our last season, we didn’t have a lot of guys, so it’s good to see new guys coming out and having a fuller team.”
As teams gain new members, club teams have also faced obstacles. Boehm said leadership turnover within clubs has been a major challenge due to the lack of club sports last year.
“Many of our clubs have members in new leadership roles and positions, as well as new members who have never really experienced club sports until this year due to the pandemic,” Boehm said in an email.
Johnson said he has experienced that challenge himself as his team’s vice president. He said he is learning to coordinate with the team’s executive board and handle vital operations like practice schedules.
“I am mostly training and learning about how the operations work and building a relationship with the club sports coordinator,” Johnson said.
Win or lose, Johnson said club sports are a great element of athletics at Loyola. His time on the men’s ultimate frisbee team has changed his college experience for the better, he said.
“It’s a great alternative if you are looking for a community and a group of people to get close with and be athletic with,” Johnson said.
While some teams’ seasons have already begun, many clubs are still accepting members throughout the year, Boehm said in an email.