By Gwen Gelofsack
The spring 2020 semester and the 2020-2021 school year have been chaotic, especially for the Athletic Department, as sports seasons have been more chaotic than ever.
“We have weekly meetings with the Canton Health Department to assure that we are keeping everybody safe,” Tonya Hockman, volleyball coach and athletic director, said. Hockman is rising to the challenges imposed when COVID-19 and sporting events clash.
To keep students safe, the criteria for each event’s attendance requires filling no more than 15% of the seating capacity, practicing social distancing and enforcing the mask mandate. In addition to these procedures, only single-game sporting events will be hosting spectators.
Tickets are provided to athletes first, who can then hand them out to friends and family members. The rest of the available tickets are offered to the remaining student body. Hockman is disappointed that the energy level at sporting events is lower due to the lack of in-person support. She misses vibrant parts of the community being able to attend, such as cheerleaders and the band.
Despite this, Hockman finds positive attributes in this stormy season, one being that Malone is allowing spectators at all. Some schools are not allowing spectators at any games.
“I do feel blessed that we are open to a segment of our student population,” Hockman said with a smile.
As the Athletic Director, Hockman points to the growth in the program’s technology usage through the unconventional year. Hockman reports that tracking the number of spectators has been easier with a new online system in place.
While she recognizes the challenges the new system poses, Hockman is looking forward to seeing how the online ticket program will be carried into sporting events in the seasons to come.
The athletic director isn’t the only one feeling the heat of the season. Athletes are also affected by COVID-19 changes taking place.
“With so much uncertainty, I think we need to keep an open mind about what is to come and simply be thankful for the opportunity to compete,” Kinsey Knoch, sophomore athlete for the cross country, track, and swimming and diving teams, said. As Knoch looks forward to the season, she is confident Malone’s athletic teams are prepared to compete.
“We had a great first weekend at the Youngstown State Invite and I look forward to seeing my team succeed in our conference,” Knoch said.
Brian Read, a graduate student and power forward for the men’s basketball team, has high expectations for himself and his team this season. His biggest challenge has been staying positive through the isolation and many quarantines the team has been through.
“I prayed and meditated often to help me through time in quarantine. [Those practices] helped me feel more hopeful for the start of the season,” Read said.
Moving forward, Read not only hopes for each player to remain healthy, but also to win their conference. Previously, Malone faced Ohio Valley and won by 33 points. Read is excited to see the team earn more wins as the season continues.
Danielle Roshong, a senior member of the Malone golf team, has also been affected. Even with golf being ranked as low-contact, their season still faced a lot of changes. Roshong said her biggest challenge was adjusting to the changes in every tournament.
“We simply had to prepare for the unknown and use proper precautions,” Roshong said. The team did not know if tournaments were going to be canceled or have their precautions modified week by week.
Roshong was happy to have a season in any capacity, as it affords her the chance to finish her last year. Thankfully, with the help of spacing out players and limiting the number of people at each event, the season has been successful so far.
Malone University takes pride in its faith in Christ through the difficult year. Roshong realized she prayed more this season than any other. With so much uncertainty, she found stability in her faith.
Athletic Director Tonya Hockman keeps her faith as her center during this season as she has with every other season. Through the long hours and the rapid changes, she looks to God for peace.
“God is ultimately in charge, and that is what gets me through the day,” Hockman said.
Malone University is prepared to take on the upcoming seasons with God’s grace carrying them through and the best precautions at their side.