After a year of virtual practices and canceled contests, club sports are finally anticipating a return to in-person activities.

Alex Ye

12:04 am, Sep 14, 2021

Contributing Reporter

Yale Daily News

For the first time since March 2020, club sports will be able to hold in-person practices and contests this fall. In the coming months, students will have the opportunity to try out, practice and compete in a variety of athletic activities ranging from figure skating and field hockey to spikeball and squash.

Since its founding 50 years ago, the William Clay Ford Club Sports Program at Yale has offered students an opportunity to play competitive sports on a non-varsity level. During the 2020-21 season, however, club teams were unable to hold formal practices due to stringent pandemic protocols. With the start of the new school year, however, updated guidelines have allowed a return to in-person activities.

According to the University’s Fall 2021 Club Sports COVID-19 Guidelines, which were updated Sept. 2, both indoor and outdoor practices were allowed to begin starting Sept. 7. Club sport competitions may start this Wednesday, with an indoor gathering limit of 20 people and an outdoor gathering limit of 50 people. The outdoor limit includes spectators, but fans are currently not allowed to attend indoor club sports events. The guidelines also require facial coverings to be worn during any indoor activities, unless actively hydrating. Additionally, all students participating must be fully vaccinated.

Yale’s Director of Club Sports Tom Migdalski has sent at least four emails obtained by the News with increasingly updated guidelines to club leadership. Migdalski sent an early edition of the guidelines on Aug. 30, which stated that “violation of any of the guidelines below may result in the elimination of a club’s privileges including the loss of competition and practice or suspension of the club. Individual students may also face university discipline.”

Most sports held their last official in-person practices over a year ago, making this fall season highly anticipated. For many teams, last year’s guidelines made it impossible to practice at all.

“We tried to get guys together last year, but with the 10 person limit, it was obviously very difficult considering that the sport is 15 versus 15,” Mahlon Sorensen ’22, club men’s rugby president, said.

The return to in-person activities has many students around campus looking to get back in the action with club sports. Sorensen noted that compared to previous years, this year’s activities fair saw an increased amount of interest. Vice president of club polo Hilary Griggs ’24 made similar remarks in an interview, stating that the club may have to be more selective this year due to more people trying out for the team.

Returning players also expressed optimism regarding the updated guidelines. Club swimming president Eliza Kravitz ’24 told the News that in-person club practices have “always been the highlight of my semesters at Yale.”

Despite the excitement, the current COVID-19 protocol is still concerning for many club sport teams, mostly because of the persisting restrictions. 

“I was a little disappointed about the 20 person limit,” Kravitz expressed. “We want as many people to participate as possible, and it might be hard to replicate what we had in previous years.”

Another issue for some club teams is reserving gym time for practice. Zoe Sinclair ’22, co-captain of women’s club basketball, explained that the team is still waiting to set a practice schedule because they have yet to hear back from the gym, which has been overbooked for the past few weeks. Furthermore, like Kravitz, Sinclair indicated that the 20 person gathering limit would require significant adjustments, such as increasing the number of shifts for tryouts.

Other team captains also expressed frustration with regards to the imbalances between club sport policy and varsity sport policy. For example, the current club sports policy limits fans at outdoor events to 50, all while Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communications Mike Gambardella told the News that there is no capacity limit for spectators at the Yale Bowl, John J. Lee Amphitheater, Reese Stadium or Johnson Field.

“There is an obvious disparity between what the club sports policies are and what the varsity sports policies are,” Sorensen said. “Varsity sports have been practicing for six weeks while club sports haven’t been allowed to go to the fields yet; it just doesn’t make any sense to me. The fact that the Yale administration is willing to accept calculated risk with varsity teams but not with club sports is just disappointing.”

In response to these discrepancies in policies between varsity and club sports, Gambardella stated that Yale’s COVID-19 Response Team is requiring club sports and intramurals to follow University gathering limits. Varsity sports do not have to follow those rules.

Nevertheless, the upcoming season of club sports remains a source of excitement for club sports captains around campus.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to the barn,” Griggs remarked. “For members of our team, the barn is a great place to not only play polo, but also relieve stress and serve as a refuge from campus.”

For a full list of club sports offered at Yale, students can visit the club sport directory.