The impact of Covid-19 on third level sport

Jessica Woodlock

Fergal Whitely of DCU in action against Robert Downes of LIT. Credit: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

The coronavirus pandemic has brought change to every aspect of student life. From online learning to the distinct lack of nights out, it is clear that the upcoming college year will be one like no other.

Third level sports have been hugely affected, with a certain sense of ambiguity due to the continually changing levels of restrictions.

It is impossible to know for sure how the upcoming sporting season will go. The College View spoke to the Senior Sports Development Officer at DCU, Yvonne McGowan to see how COVID-19 is changing third level sports.

“At the moment we have a dual focus of building community and preparing clubs for a safe return to play,” said McGowan.

“We have produced additional COVID related safety procedures. We are training and supporting clubs to put safety measures in place and to be ready to return to play once level 3 restrictions are lifted”.

Sports can be a huge part of some student’s life and it will be particularly challenging for new first years to be unable to fully benefit from the clubs available.

Sports Scholar and member of DCU Ladies Rugby Club, Maeve Og O’Leary spoke about her experience so far this season.

“It’s hard to keep a team running when there is no training or matches allowed but I would hope teams use this time to the best of their ability. At the end of the day our health is the most important thing. So if and when we are allowed train we will absolutely take that opportunity – there is always work to be done” said O’Leary.

“It’s tough waiting around…the number one effect on the players themselves will probably be frustration or disappointment,” O’Leary said.

DCU has over 40 clubs available for students, ranging from GAA to Ultimate Frisbee. Some sports, like contact rugby, will be impacted quite a lot but others such as rock-climbing, seem to be faring better.

“We’re lucky. Not much has actually changed,” said Diarmuid Brady, a member of the rock-climbing club which won DCU’s 2020 Club of the Year at the Clubs and Socs Awards.

“Before this pandemic even happened we were social distancing, keeping 2 meters apart for safety reasons, in case anyone fell off the wall. We’ve increased sanitation between climbs but other than that we’ve been able to resume pretty much as normal” said Brady.

McGowan has also recognized the positives from the situation acknowledging that is has caused colleges nationwide to become more innovative.

“There are definitely some positive outcomes from this, such as the use of technology…the new Clubs & Socs Management system to share good practice and improve how clubs are administered” she said.

“I think that when sport returns to normal in the future, we will have a great appreciation of sport and the social and physical benefits that it brings. COVID has encouraged us to review how we operate in university sport and also how we can adapt our activity,” McGowan said.

DCU Club Life and DCU Sports & Wellbeing have adapted their funding policies this year to support clubs to run Covid-19 adapted activity. New measures taken include the virtual Clubs & Societies fair, which will run from the 12th to the 16th of October.

Jessica Woodlock

Image Credit: Diarmuid Greene