For hundreds of students at the University of South Carolina, club sports provide the ideal break from the rigors of college studies.
When the university went strictly online in mid-March 2020, club sports came to a sudden halt. Even though in-person classes have since returned, those club athletes still haven’t been able to play their sports the way they had been in early March.
Many club athletes have been strictly meeting over Zoom, just as they are doing with some online classes. The difference is: while you can learn Spanish over a Zoom call, you can’t complete a pass or score a goal through one. The reason that most clubs have been meeting over Zoom is that the few activities they could do in person don’t make meeting worthwhile.
No shared equipment is allowed. This includes the ball or disk that is being used to play the game. Teams are strictly limited to conditioning exercises and cannot make any contact with each other.
This is the dilemma that brought the University’s club football team to disband last spring, though team members are trying to come back together in hopes of returning to play in the spring.
Senior club member Colin Davis says his life just isn’t the same without football.
“That’s kinda what got me up every morning was being able to go and practice and play with some of my closest friends,” he said.
The team can’t practice or play games right now, but they’re hopeful that the spring will bring new guidelines from the club sports office and a chance to play.
The Gamecock Club Hockey team has a unique situation. They are longstanding customers of the Plex Ice Rink and their games have generated a sizeable amount of the rink’s revenue over the past decade. For that reason, the rink wanted to create a scenario in which they could maintain the club’s business. The result was a students-only men’s league called the USCHL.
Affectionately nicknamed “The Chicken League” by its players, the USCHL is run entirely by the rink. The main input from Club Hockey President Evan Hoey was to ensure that the league followed guidelines set up by the UofSC club sports office.
“My only role in it was coming to the rink to kind of say ‘Hey listen, these are our guidelines, these are our safety protocols that we want to follow given to us by the university to make sure we can keep all of our players safe.’”
The league is non-contact and players dress in multiple socially distant locker rooms in order to follow Club Sports guidelines.
Clubs are not permitted to travel farther than 25 miles from campus to play a game or host any schools from outside that same radius. That effectively takes away all opponents as feasible options. The USCHL is the best answer to this as it effectively created four new teams whose players all reside in the Columbia area.
The USCHL season runs until the beginning of November, with all four teams playing every Monday night.
Like Colin Davis and members of the club football team, the members of Gamecock Hockey hope to return to regular league play in the spring.
Player equipment and the brand new ‘USCHL’ jerseys, which will be worn throughout the season