The new normal is wearing a mask wherever you go. And if you are an athlete that means to practice, lift, and maybe even during games. Since practices have resumed here at Pacific University there has been a mandatory mask rule for every sport. Although, wearing a mask while competing in a game varies depending on the sport. Some athletes feel as if wearing a mask during practice has trained them to perform better in games, while others feel like it has stopped them from reaching their full potential.

Sports like soccer started their reduced season in February, and have been competing with no mask during games. All players and staff on the side lines and bench are still required to be socially distanced with a mask on but when it comes to the field it’s a mask free zone. Catalina Alvarado, sophomore at Pacific University and right back women’s soccer team has officially played her first game in 15 months mask free. 

“It was funny because players who were going to sub in were stepping onto the field forgetting to take their mask off, that just shows how abnormal it is to play without a mask.” 

The gesture of pulling your mask up above your nose is almost as common as the muffled conversations during practices. Conor Barres, sophomore and center back for the men’s soccer team, feels playing without a mask allowed him to finally focus on his performance. Barres said it was just one less thing to worry about on the field. Not only did breathing get easier but so did communicating, “It’s hard to hear across an entire soccer field, let alone with a mask on. I definitely have to yell louder in order to be heard by everyone.”

Athletes who play in closed gyms that tend to echo also agree when it comes to the difficulty of communicating with masks on. Madi Cabardo, sophomore and guard on the women’s basketball team says understanding her coaches during practice has been a new learned skill itself. Masks tend to muffle the voices making it much harder to understand when a play is being called or a screen is being set. Cabardo says she finds herself saying “What did they say?” more than she would like to at practice.

The debate of whether or not wearing a mask while conditioning helps your endurance is commonly discussed. Many athletes have said wearing the mask while conditioning is like resistance training for your lungs. Cassidy Binder, freshman on the women’s tennis team feels the mask has limited her as a player. When it comes to fitness, Binder does not feel wearing a mask has helped her conditioning, “In a way it’s preventing me because when I do fitness or anything that would get me more in shape I can only do so much until I’m inhaling my mask with sweat.” 

No matter if the players are fans of the mask or not, they are here to stay for the rest of the spring season. There is no clear answer of when sports will go back to normal, but if there is anything you can count on it is resilience from Pacific University student athletes. — Emily Rutkowski

Photo: While players can play without masks in games, they are mandatory in practices. Pictured Above: Conor Barres. (Julien Dagan)

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Emily Rutkowski is a sophomore from Mesa, Arizona. She enjoys playing soccer for the women's soccer team here at Pacific University. In her free time, she loves being outdoors and socializing with friends and family.

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Julien Dagan is a junior in Forest Grove, OR and pursuing a degree in Chemistry. She enjoys playing lacrosse for Pacific and photography.

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