All practices canceled for a week due to athletes breaking COVID covenant

Caleb Soto, Staff Writer

“I hope it was worth it,” exclaimed senior captain of the women’s soccer team, Gabi Haw. Her season and the seasons of all other athletes were put in jeopardy following the decision to shut down campus-wide practice for a whole week. The reason: students — including some athletes — were breaking Westmont’s COVID-19 safety protocol.

“I think [the decision] was rather drastic,” thought Matt Alleman of Westmont’s tennis team. He added, “No one from the tennis team was at the bonfire.”

By gathering for a bonfire, a reported 50 students violated the Residence Life contract signed by everyone returning to campus.

Was it worth it? Senior baseball player Taylor Jennings found the act “to some degree understandable.” He claimed the disconnect and longing for true interaction led to this event. The result: all practices were canceled for one week.

It was important to demonstrate that there are higher values than sports participation.

— COACH RUSSELL SMELLEY

However, “it is our job as athletes to reflect the values and respect the wishes of Westmont to the best of our abilities,” Jennings concluded.

Athletic Director Dave Odell echoed that sentiment: “The coaching staff was unanimous in this decision … regarding the expectations — both related to the COVID-19 covenant and our Athletic Code of Conduct — we have for our student-athletes.”

Bottom line: stay safe and healthy, and seasons will continue as planned. However, this goes beyond just sports. 

According to Coach Russell Smelley, “It was important to demonstrate that there are higher values than sports participation.”

Men’s soccer mid-fielder Jona Romero concurred with Smelley’s remarks, saying, “People need to realize their actions affect their community.” 

To reference Ben Patterson’s “Let’s get our bearings,” a potential case from an athlete can spread to any athlete at any college Westmont competes against. The potential danger of contracting COVID-19 extends well past Westmont. 

Any actions that increase COVID-19 risks increase the chances that athletes won’t compete.”

— DAVE ODELL, Athletic Director

Therefore, student-athletes have to take every precaution necessary because, as Haw pointed out, “Nothing is promised to us.” She also expressed further concern about “athletic seasons ending, and more suspension of practices and games” if disregard for safety continues.

Odell said, “Any actions that increase COVID-19 risks increase the chances that athletes won’t compete.” He also noted the upcoming games for the basketball and golf teams. They start in a couple weeks, so missing a week of practice has most likely slowed them down. 

As for teams currently in season, such as cross country, Coach Smelley was optimistic: “Cross Country will thrive, nonetheless, in the current situation.”

Tennis, baseball and soccer don’t start until spring, so Alleman, Jennings and Romero expressed that there was no serious setback. Jennings added, “It is better that [baseball] address these issues in October than in January.” 

He trusts the judgement of the athletic programs and gives them credit because “the suspension has been effective in that it has reminded each and every one of us just how quickly athletics can be taken away.” 

For seniors, the shut-down was difficult. Haw mentioned that “[seniors] are trying to take in every last bit of the sport we love.” While neutral about the decision itself, Haw explained that many division one and two schools aren’t competing, so she hopes that the few “don’t ruin it for all of us.”