The Bills are Buzzing

With all 18 sports playing this spring, SLU’s athletic department is more active than ever


Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis University

Chaifetz Arena is always busy. Athletes hustle in and out of the VIP entrance, headed for rehab or running to lift. Players run down the hallway to grab items from their respective locker rooms. Coaches hustle about for their COVID tests. The administration has not had the opportunity to sit still since all the athletes have come back to campus. 

It is important to know that in a normal year, Chaifetz is busy. Without the limited space in the weight room and training room, sometimes athletes and teams were required to wait their turn. Now, with 18 sports and nearly 300 athletes coming and going on a daily basis, Chaifetz is nothing short of a beehive. Athletes wait patiently to be taped while others anxiously shift around waiting for their lift to start, but only after undergoing the necessary COVID protocols. 

Sports this year look a little different. The classroom in the arena has gone unutilized. Pregame meetings take place on Zoom. Pregame meals are no longer provided—athletes are on their own. In reality, the team comes together to lift, practice and play. Otherwise, for everyone’s safety, teams spend their time apart from one another. Every day at practice they have the opportunity to recount a day’s worth of adventures that in another year, they probably would have experienced together. 

For administrators, their duties and obligations have increased ten-fold. In a normal year, the fall and spring seasons are the busiest. Now, all eighteen are a go. That means any problems that arise are on the shoulders of those who are already experiencing a career-high workload. For things to go seamlessly, an abundance of effort is poured into careful planning and painstaking cooperation between public health officials and the teams. 

This is not for nothing, however. Certainly, there are challenges to this season and plenty have yet to be seen, but every team that is currently competing is boasting a winning record. The Billikens have prepared long months, raft with highs and lows in order to undertake a real season and a chance to play the game they love. In order for this to happen, plenty of teams had to make sacrifices. Swimming was sent to an off campus facility to train this fall. Tennis and field hockey, which normally play off-campus, have had to conform to their venues’ ever-changing rules and regulations that allowed them to be there. With the brutal winter weather of last week, every outdoor sport had to make adjustments to continue practice. For baseball and softball, indoor hitting facilities allowed them to hone their offensive game, men’s and women’s soccer paid visits to the various indoor soccer facilities in the area, and field hockey also moved to an indoor pitch. 

For the Billikens, this season will be about taking things in stride. There are bound to be problems and slip-ups. One of our teams or an opponent could test positive for COVID. Earlier this month, SLU’s ever-vigilant health staff advised the men’s basketball team to stay back from their game against Richmond— a call that helped keep not only men’s basketball but the entire department COVID-free. 

A win this season will be a little more sweet than normal. Getting to play will mean a little more than usual. Everything is a gift. It is the sort of situation no one wants to find themselves in but that reminds you exactly why you should never be so comfortable you take things for granted. 

For a renowned athletics department, this season is a unique test. For athletes, administrators, coaches and fans alike, COVID will continue to test mental and emotional stamina. For athletes, continued separation from family and friends has created an environment with little reprieve outside of athletics. For fans, the spectator restrictions will make it difficult for students to support their peers and find activities that promote simultaneous social distancing and entertainment. 

This season’s challenges are not simply from COVID, either. For fall student-athletes, almost a year has passed with full focus on training and preparation for being in season. High intensity training on the body could wreak havoc on Billikens’ bodies, potentially bringing problems throughout the season. A condensed season could also bring problems. Many teams will play their season straight through without a week off. 

As for the perks, there are a few that are obvious. The ability to play is one that is not overdone. The chance to travel and see opponents as opposed to simply continuing intrasquad scrimmage is what teams have trained for. Anticipation and excitement with a twist will be a familiar feeling for our athletes this season. Now, more than ever, it is important to seize the opportunity provided. But there are plenty that the season could hold. As of now, we do not know what a postseason for any of our teams could look like. A postseason itself will be full of unique challenges with different obstacles to navigate. However, the importance of keeping a positive mindset and training for the best will be of utmost importance. 

The Billikens are a tight-knit group. Supporting one another does not come with much resistance. Many remain hopeful that things could change throughout these next months. Even with a shortened season, it is important to remember that a month is still a good bit of time…plenty could happen. In short, nobody knows what these next hectic few months hold for the Billikens. Most certainly, there will be triumphs and defeats, records broken and celebrations had. While they will look different than usual, it will still be an important thing in which to partake. A sense of normalcy will be the greatest thing afforded for the athletes this season. SLU is not the only athletic department in the nation facing these new challenges. In a way, it is a great equalizer. It gives the underdog the chance to rise up and provide the nation with a well-loved Cinderella story. In the end, while this season is new and unique for everybody, there has never been a better chance to make history. And that is just what Billikens and fans alike will be anxiously awaiting this next season.