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Nearly two years after the Ivy League first canceled its season due to Covid-19, Harvard varsity athletics are inching toward normalcy.
Harvard athletics resurrected last fall with a full competition schedule after a four-season hiatus. Since the long-awaited return, Harvard’s varsity student-athletes have reported mixed experiences practicing and playing during a pandemic.
Noah A. Kirkwood ’22, a guard on Harvard men’s basketball team, said it was difficult returning to the sport after the canceled season because he was “fully removed from basketball” last year.
“I still feel like right now I’m getting used to playing again and getting my rhythm back, but it was definitely tough,” Kirkwood said.
At one point over winter break, seven players — including Kirkwood — tested positive for Covid-19, he said. With so many players out, the team had to postpone a game against Princeton and cancel their game against the University of Kansas.
Margaret P. “Maggie” McCarthy ’23, who plays on both the women’s basketball and lacrosse teams, said Covid-19 has fortunately not affected their gameplay.
“We didn't have to have any games postponed luckily, but some of the teams we played had players with [Covid-19] and that caused some nerves within people,” McCarthy said. “Our coaching staff and training staff did a really good job at keeping people calm, so luckily it hasn’t affected our season so far.”
Other student-athletes reported public health guidelines have impacted team camaraderie.
Allaura M. Osborne ’25, a thrower on the track and field team, said Covid-19 restrictions have limited her ability to get to know her team.
“This is a really large team,” Osborne said. “It’s been really hard to just bond with the teammates and actually see everyone because we are trying to be Covid-cautious.”
Despite limited team bonding events, Osborne said that “the coaches have done everything that they can to build that community.”
Harvard men’s lacrosse player Jake E. Brownley ’25, on the other hand, said he believes the ongoing pandemic has brought the team closer together rather than farther apart.
“I feel like team bonding hasn’t been affected at all,” Brownley said. “If anything, I think it all brings us closer because you’re only supposed to be around your teammates and the guys that you hang out with the most so you don’t catch anything or spread anything.”
Brownley also said that the coaching staff has been focused on enforcing safety guidelines and keeping players healthy so that they are able to compete.
“They’re always harping on us wearing masks and keeping distance,” Brownley said. “Obviously haven’t had a real season in a while, so that’s the only thing on their minds, is making sure that we’re following the rules and that they’re keeping us safe so we can play this year.”
Kirkwood lauded University Covid-19 testing protocols and said he is excited to have supporters return to the stands. Harvard announced last month it would welcome spectators back to indoor competitions, as long as they show proof of vaccination.
“We were so fortunate to have the fans come out to the Penn game and watch us play,” Kirkwood said. “It’s always a great atmosphere to have them back.”
—Staff writer Justin Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Jennifer L. Powley can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferlPowley.
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