Sports teams at Sunderland are preparing for a season like no other.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions the British Universities and Colleges (BUCS) season has been postponed until next year.
However, clubs are still able to go ahead with training, following guidance from universities, BUCS and the sport’s respective national body.
Despite not having face-to-face interactions with prospective players at events like the Freshers’ Fair, recruitment for Team Sunderland sides has continued.
Clubs like men’s football and netball have subsequently found themselves with similar levels of interest in previous years. Social Secretary of Team Sunderland Netball, Lucy Brooks, said that the club had found themselves with “more freshers than ever before” thanks to a social media recruitment campaign they started back in July.
Additionally, the university has implemented a free sports membership scheme, meaning that students wishing to participate in sport this year can sign up for free until January 1st, 2021.
Ben Jefferson, President of American Football at the university, suggests that this scheme has helped to increase the number of students interested in playing university sport.
However, he said that recruitment has still been difficult without face-to-face events and that interest in American football was about the same, possibly less than in previous years.
This is something that Team Sunderland’s basketball team also echoed.
Joey Ong from women’s basketball said that sign-ups for the team this year have not been as high as previous years.
One thing this year’s students will have to adapt to are the new rules regulated by each sport’s national body. This means that different sports have their own set of guidance regarding how training sessions are conducted.
Adam Gill, a member of Team Sunderland football, said that their training sessions are still running but contact will be more limited than usual, with Covid officers in place to ensure that rules are being followed.
Basketball is also aiming to limit player contact, with a focus on individual drills in training sessions.
Team Sunderland’s netball club have also seen some changes this year, such as outdoor training for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, England Netball have altered their rules for the new conditions to ensure social distancing takes place on the court.
The marking of opponent players has also changed, with a focus on flying interceptions rather than body deflections, which Brooks suggests could possibly be trickier for players to defend the ball in some game scenarios.
Additionally, Jefferson said that currently all American Football training is non-contact. However, their regulatory body, the British American Football Association (BAFA), have implemented a timescale for when contact can gradually return.