Women’s basketball practices with COVID-19 restrictions

Players and coaches discuss keeping team spirit, practicing in pods

Gabe Sta Maria and Mesaged Abakar

Freshman basketball player Hailey Marlow shows off her dribbling skills. (Gabrialla Cockerell)

She laces up her shoes, puts on her mask, and gathers with only four other players in a section of Royal Brougham Pavilion. Throughout the practice, she only works with these few teammates away from the rest of the team. This is what a typical women’s basketball practice is like at Seattle Pacific University in a pandemic.

Seattle Pacific University students and faculty were forced to adjust to meet social distancing guidelines this quarter, and sports are no exception. SPU women’s basketball has taken many precautions during their practices and were forced to learn how to adjust while maintaining the safety of their players and coaching staff.

“We are practicing in socially distanced pods, which means I have a group of five players that are masked up and play at one basket,” said SPU women’s head coach Mike Simonson. “We can’t do any full team type workouts, we’re kinda just doing more skill development and learning some of our concepts. We’re far away from actual full team practice.”

Simonson also said that the women’s team is grateful to get back on the court with their teammates, especially after quarantine.

“They’re super excited to get on the basketball court because during quarantine, so many gyms would not let them in and work on their game,” Simonson said. “So there’s a lot of excitement just getting on the basketball court, I think we’ve really enjoyed that.”

Community is something really important to Simonson and maintaining the team’s chemistry and togetherness is something that he and the coaching staff care about. Off the court, the coaching staff has come up with different methods of team bonding within each pod of players.

“A big thing we want to do is have cohesiveness and have a tight knit team. What we’ve tried to do is be really creative with player interviews where in their pods they have to do interviews one on one,” Simonson said.

Simonson is hopeful about playing this upcoming season even though there is no concrete plan from the GNAC conference at this time.

“I do believe that the GNAC conference and Seattle Pacific is doing everything they possibly can for us to play games,” Simonson said. “So as I look to the future, I feel very confident that we’re gonna be playing basketball games this year and I think our team is as well, it just has not been finalized yet.”

The motto the team is following this year is “Dig In.” Assistant coach Katie Benson explained what the team’s theme means to her.

“Digging in and making sure we’re diving in deep and that’s realizing what is holding us and keeping us grounded, and what is keeping us down in the midst of trials,” Benson said. “Everyday, we have (the team) write in their binders different goals that they have, different things they have done well, and different things they want to work on.”

Given the conditions and changes, the players have a positive mindset and are staying optimistic as the season approaches.

“I think that the future is unclear as of right now. We’re excited to play in January so we’re all looking forward to that and we hope that falls through and we can actually play a couple of games this year,” said freshman Hailey Marlow. “Going into practice, our mindset is still the same and we are still trying to get a championship this season.”

Often, chemistry can be tough to create, but the team manages to remain together while they’re not in the gym.

SPU Woman’s Basketball player Hailey Marlow gets ready to practice at Ashton Court. (Gabrialla Cockerell)

“You don’t get to interact much with other teammates because you’re not in the same pod, but we try to do team activities while being socially distant outside of basketball, so we still get to interact with everybody.” said sophomore Kayla Brundidge.

“Since we’re still connecting on and off the court, I feel like that should also be able to translate somewhat on the court.”

The new guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety could have been a downfall, but it has turned into a positive, as players understand that everyone is struggling with the same thing. Marlow found it positive that she had smaller pods.

“It is definitely an adjustment for all of us. We can definitely support each other whenever anyone’s feeling lonely or down,” said Marlow. “As a freshman, it definitely slowed down what we were doing so you could take more time to learn and process the drills and get to know the offense and defense better.”

“It’s been kinda hard to do live stuff, because if someone gets hurt in your pod then you only have like three or four people to try to work with,” said Brundidge. “We’ve done a lot of two on two, but we’re hoping that soon the pods will be gone and we’ll be able to do actual scrimmage.”

This may not be a normal season, but coaches have done their utmost to make sure all players are safe from COVID.

“The fact that we’re all going through it together makes it a lot easier,” said Marlow.