Despite COVID-19 putting a hold on collegiate athletics, APU athletes continue to train and prepare for the spring season 

Most student athletes did not think that the coronavirus pandemic, which swept the nation in March of 2020, would last long enough to derail their fall seasons. Fast forward almost six months later and most student athletes have already grown accustomed to this new ‘normal’ without games, practices or open gyms, including those at Azusa Pacific. Everything being closed has become very normal to the likes of student-athletes in California— a state that is still cautious of the virus.

“When this all started to happen in the spring,” football senior Vince Rollins said, “we thought there was no way it would carry over into August.”

To Vince and other fall athletes dismay, the fall season was cancelled in July after the virus persisted in the state of California, forcing universities to shut down their campuses and go online for the fall. Throughout the offseason, the challenges of staying in shape became even tougher when gyms were closed for the majority of the summer. Some athletes found that they had to get creative in order to keep training.

“It’s been a little different,” said volleyball senior Emma Svagdis. “[We’ve been doing] lot of body weight stuff, outdoor conditioning, flexibility, training, stretching, and going outside and trying to use what we have at home.”

Another challenge that student-athletes have faced is the uncertainty of having competition this season. Some student-athletes have found it hard to stay optimistic, hopeful and energized throughout the quarantine period but feel that having future competition to look forward to is crucial.

“I think at this point if we get anything we will be happy,” said senior goalkeeper Isabelle Decker. “Expectations-wise, it’s hard. But if we get to play a few games or even practice that will be energizing in itself.”

The season’s cancellation in July was a massive let-down, especially for some seniors hoping to finish their Cougar careers on a high note. The Azusa Pacific women’s volleyball team was coming off back-to-back PacWest titles where they broke a handful of records. The team was looking to build on its previous success, as over 75 percent of its players were returning from a season ago.

“Every year we’ve been doing the best our program has ever done,” said volleyball senior Sophia Newhouse, “and this year was supposed to be no different. We all had huge expectations for ourselves.”

With whatever comes next for these student-athletes and their respective collegiate seasons, the long break has shown them how much they appreciate competition. But even more so, they miss playing in brick and black and being around their teammates and coaches. It’s the memories and friendships that they have made in the locker rooms that will last far longer than their four years at APU.

“A lot of why we love the game is our teammates,” said soccer senior Kaylee Nicoll. “I just can’t wait to be able to practice and see everyone’s face everyday.”

Decker said she is looking forward to being back with her teammates as well.

“We’re going to freak out when we’re all finally able to see each other,” Decker said.


“We’re going to be a lot hungrier.”

When athletics are able to return, the APU football team will be ready. For the first time in 14 years, APU hired a new head football coach in long-time offensive coordinator Rudy Carlton. Although this brand new chapter of APU football was postponed by the pandemic, the Cougars will be ready to right their wrongs from a season-ago once they return. 

“I know that everyone would agree that we’re going to be a lot hungrier,” Rollins said. “We’re definitely not going to take it for granted. We’re all expecting an exciting season and an exciting new chapter in Azusa Pacific football.”

With voluntary workouts coming up this October, teams are doing everything they can to stay ready. The Azusa Pacific women’s soccer team has taken their voluntary workouts to another level during the break by taking advantage of technological opportunities to push and motivate one another from afar. This includes team workout and training sessions over Zoom that help the team stay fit and connected. The team also shares an app that tells their teammates when they go on a run or do a ball skill workout, which keeps them motivated.

It’s clear that no matter if or when the season does come for these athletes, it’ll be a long-time coming. How athletes have managed to sustain the passion and drive for this long is admirable. The good thing is, however, that it’s only a matter of time before they will get to express it in competition, whether that be as a Cougar or in the real world.

“It’s been a good reality check, that our lives are in balance even after sports,” Newhouse said. “The key has been, and will be going forward, seeing our role in volleyball in the grand scheme of the program and our lives too.”

Despite COVID-19 throwing a wrench in 2020’s plans and fall athletic seasons, student-athletes have been able to graft their training routines into this new ‘normal.’ The way they train, compete and communicate has changed, but they have kept going. It conveys a powerful message that student-athletes still remain positive and hopeful for a better future.