Despite facing restrictions imposed by the University, some of Princeton’s 37 club sport teams have still been meeting for practices this semester while following social distancing guidelines.
Sport club leaders were informed on March 26 that they could soon resume official practices through an email from Tim Phanthavong, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation.
“I am excited to share with you all that our Sport Club resumption proposal has been APPROVED for Phase-1 in-person activities!” he wrote. Phanthavong went on to explain the process for gaining permission to schedule official practices and use specific equipment — a process that required full team rosters, one-on-one meetings with club leaders, signing an agreement, and equipment pickup from Dillon Gymnasium.
Many pandemic restrictions, especially prior to the start of Phase 1 activities, made it almost impossible for some teams to engage in the activities that they were accustomed to.
“The club ice hockey team has always practiced and played within Baker Rink, which has been closed for the year up until early April,” said Nicholas Cefalu ’21, president of the Princeton Ice Hockey Club.
“We were only able to get back on the ice about halfway through the semester,” said Francesca Block ’22, president of the Princeton Figure Skating Club.
Block is an associate podcast editor for The Daily Princetonian.
Not all clubs were severely hindered by the University restrictions, however.
“Running doesn't depend on organized practices or access to any kind of special facilities — so anyone on our team who has wanted to run has been able to run,” said Princeton Running Club (PRC) president Ryan Eusebi ’22.
However, the team has still partly been affected by the University restrictions.
“Obviously things aren't like how they used to be — we bring masks on our runs, we run in small groups, and we all remain socially distanced,” Eusebi added.
As the semester progressed, the loosened restrictions made it significantly easier for club sports to conduct crucial activities.
“In early April ... the University lifted some restrictions and allowed us to get a few sessions in on the ice,” Cefalu said.
Even with the loosened restrictions, the Princeton Ice Hockey Club continued to face challenges with regards to University regulations.
“We were only given one two-hour slot on Wednesdays and were not allowed to have more than 5 people on the ice at a time. Our team has roughly 10 people who have busy schedules, and so while we appreciate the effort to open up the rink for us, only about 4 of us were able to take advantage of it over the two weeks that we had ice scheduled,” Cefalu added.
Members of the Princeton Figure Skating Club were also allowed to practice on the ice following the loosening of University restrictions.
“We have about 30 members on our roster, but we were limited to 5 people on the ice at a time, and we were given about 4 hours of ice time a week,” said Block.
Eusebi explained that the Princeton Running Club was not that affected by the loosening of restrictions.
“The university did relax some of the restrictions for club sports, although this didn't affect us too much as our sport doesn’t depend on any facilities,” Eusebi said.
The University restrictions have also affected the ability of some club sports to integrate first-year students into their teams.
“Without the season, and even the fall semester, we weren't able to recruit potential first years until the spring semester started. Even then, our interaction with them has consisted of GroupMe messages and the two skates. They seem like great future members of our team, but we just haven't had the face time to really get to know them or for them to get to know us,” Cefalu said.
“We haven’t been able to do a whole lot, definitely nothing group-based, and obviously planning Zoom events is very challenging for attendance and can be really draining for students who spend all day on Zoom,” Block said.
“That’s one of my regrets from this year ... not really being able to reach out to the first years and get them engaged and excited about figure skating,” Block added.
Eusebi remarked that the University restrictions might have actually encouraged some first year students to join the Princeton Running Club in a virtual semester.
“I think that we have been able to integrate first years into our team pretty well, and better than expected. Since not a lot of things are going on around campus, I think some freshmen saw our club as an opportunity to meet new people in a safe outdoor setting, and so we've actually had a lot of freshmen join the team,” Eusebi said.
Justin Zhang ’24, a first year student and member of the Princeton Running Club, lauded the Club’s ability to integrate first year students.
“I would say that being able to actually meet outside with PRC has really helped make me feel part of the community and given me the opportunity to meet lots of new people early on despite the restrictions,” Zhang said.