By: Chris Romano & Tyler Zeman
Staff Writers For the Yellow Jacket
The Waynesburg University basketball teams are back to practice, even with all the uncertainty lingering around the restart of Division III college sports.
Practices began on Oct. 1, which is a date they had been targeting for a while. Surprisingly, it comes two weeks before they would normally get started which is typically around Oct. 15.
The men’s basketball team is split into practice pods of 10 or less according to head coach Tim Fusina.
“We are not allowed to have our full team,” Fusina said. “We have to go through what they call gating criteria, where we only have a limited number of people allowed in a pod.”
These pods aren’t fluid, however, so in the unfortunate event that a player gets injured Fusina cannot transfer another player into that pod, they would just be one short.
With the inability to have a full team practice, this means the coaching staff has to hold three different practice sessions for each of the three pods they have the team divided into.
“It’s very difficult to do, but we have a dedicated staff and student-athletes who are attentive, smart, and great to work with,” Fusina said.
Some other notable procedures and precautions the team is taking is the coaching staff always wearing a mask as well as the players until they step on the court. The team is also not allowed to use the locker room in any way.
“This is a year that whatever guidelines are in place we have to adhere to them to the best of our ability and not deviate from them at all otherwise there is not going to be a season,” Fusina said. “One little mistake, one second that we’re not vigilant in mask-wearing, and staying apart from one another and in any of these areas we could lose our year.”
For the players, they couldn’t wait to get into the gym for the first time because it was closed for an extended time during the start to the pandemic.
“I’m always excited to be in the gym with our guys,” Fusina said. “I’m always excited to teach, I’m always excited to watch our guys learn. I’m excited that we get this opportunity.”
Fusina also mentioned the change the NCAA made to counting the season which is now by days and not weeks. This means there is a possibility they could continue to practice even after their season concludes, but there are still a lot of unknowns.
And as for the women’s team, it’s much of the same. However, the Lady Jackets have faced some setbacks.
Head Coach Sam Jones is entering his 13th season and looks to continue coaching his team through the pandemic.
According to Jones, the team hasn’t practiced yet due to health and safety concerns, but he said they’d like to begin soon.
“The health and safety of our players is paramount,” Jones said.
The team has canceled a few practices and continue to take these extra precautionary steps to ensure that his players are safe and do not get sick. Players are getting tested regularly and will continue to be tested to make sure everyone is healthy.
From a schedule perspective, this season will be different. Instead of having some out of conference games like years past, there will be only in-conference play for the season.
Jones did say that the non-conference games would be pushed to next season. The layout of the season will also be different. There won’t be a game until mid-January at the earliest. Until the season starts, the team will be practicing in order to stay prepared for the season.
Jones is taking safety into account when holding team meetings by doing phone calls with his players, Microsoft Teams’ meetings and even meeting outside socially distanced in small groups.
The Lady Jackets coaching staff has continued to recruit players during the pandemic, but Jones said it’s been very different. When possible he and his staff are still going out and seeing games, but virtual meetings with recruits are a new norm.
Both the women’s and men’s teams continue to work through the unique challenges the pandemic has presented, however, they are both operating on strict guidelines to ensure the best chance at the opportunity to hold season come January.