Men's soccer
The men’s soccer team practices in smaller groups and keeps a positive attitude even with challenges from COVID. Photo from 2019.
Photo provided by MU

Morale High for Men’s Soccer Despite COVID Changes 

Jackson Johnstone

Men’s soccer at MU has changed drastically amid the pandemic. According to Drew Gavit, a junior, Center Mid practices have been staggered into smaller groups and the team is not playing against other schools. In order to increase social distancing, the university has eliminated locker rooms, bus rides and many team bonding activities.

“Practices are going well, and they have only changed in the sense that we are in small groups scattered throughout the day and week,” Gavit said. They continue to practice the same tactics and techniques although their schedule has moved to practice with their Saturday scrimmage on Friday nights.

Jared Wayne, a center back, is excited about the long period of training that the team has been given by the NCAA. The team is now able to train through Thanksgiving instead of October as it has done in years past.

Ryan Worman, a center back, is most looking forward to the spring season as the extra practices in the fall have allowed them to be more prepared than in years past. Worman believes that this extra time will allow for more fitness and chemistry amongst the starters.

For Gavit, one negative has been the late start. “We do not have competition until the spring, and that competition is only nine games compared to the 16-18 we normally have,” he said. Another negative is not being able to bond with teammates as much outside of practice.

Worman has noted the challenges of not being able to hang out before and after games with his teammates. The biggest setback regarding this is that returning players cannot so easily connect with new players joining the team; indeed, he believes that the team has struggled more with welcoming, as he puts it, “new guys into our family.”

One thing Wayne misses is the regularly scheduled ice baths as he enjoys them greatly. Wayne also misses players who have been asked to quarantine. “It disrupts the chemistry that we build as a squad when we miss a player that is integral to our playing style,” he said.

Most importantly, the soccer program coaches and staff have been and are continuing to work hard to make sure that the student-athletes have the best experiences while also accommodating the COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines. According to Gavit, the coaches have been non-stop busy. “They’re holding practice sessions, filling in when players are unable to play, referring our inter-squad scrimmages, and working with other teams so we can use the new turf field,” he said.

Worman says that is essential for players to keep their morale high and to remember that they are all on the same team. And Wayne emphasizes that this has still been a great year for the soccer team. “Our freshmen are proving to be very talented and our returning players are showing improvement and desire to play even in this weird COVID season,” he said.