Sports Are Restarting in a ‘New Normal’


The 18 swimmers entered the outside pool deck in a drawn-out procession, taking care to remain 10 toes aside from each other. On the stroll to their individually assigned lanes, the Mission Viejo Nadadores staff members glanced on the large scoreboard.

On the display the place their successes and failures are often illuminated, their coach, Mark Schubert, had keyed in a message: “May the new normal teach us to be grateful for the things the old normal taught us to take for granted.”

Across the United States and all through the world, sports activities are slowly awakening from their two-month respite in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. As international locations begin to ease lockdown restrictions aimed toward stemming the unfold of the contagion, soccer groups in Germany, Spain and Italy have resumed coaching in the hopes of resuming their seasons, skilled golfers are eying a late spring return to competitors and touring tennis execs discovered this week that an altered model of a season is in the works. Professional baseball began again in South Korea on Tuesday, some N.B.A. training facilities may open Friday, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship and NASCAR plan to hold events this month without fans on site.

“Just the very fact that we’re trying to figure out ways for sports to continue without fans shows you how much we deeply want and need sports,” said Kane, who spoke by telephone after finishing a nine-hole round of golf, a part of her weekly routine she missed when local courses were closed.

Yet any psychological benefits of bringing back sports must be weighed against the potential physical harm.

In an interview last week, Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, the chief medical officer for the U.S.O.P.C., said that as restrictions are reduced, “there will be a potential for outbreaks, and we have to anticipate that will happen.”

“It’s really hard to know which way is best,” Olsson said in a telephone interview. He described three or four people on his club, including a coach, who have been sick with coronavirus symptoms and added, “Everyone on the team should have had it or are going to have it.”

Sandra Gal, a professional golfer from Germany, stayed in the United States until the end of March, then traveled home to be with her boyfriend and family. Because all of the courses in her state were closed, Gal bought netting so she could hit balls at a nearby park and at home.

Last week she drove two hours to practice in a part of Germany where courses have opened. This week she learned of a special exemption that her state gives professional golfers to practice on courses that are otherwise closed. “Now it’s going to start feeling a little more normal,” Gal said.

In the United States, while some business are reopening, no state is at the point where gyms, pools, training centers or even open-air running tracks are widely open.

Athing Mu, a standout half-miler, lives in New Jersey, where Covid-19 remains rampant and training facilities, most of which are at schools, are closed through the end of the academic year. Mu is running on city streets for now, dodging traffic near Trenton as she does mile repeats at a six-minute pace, said Al Jennings, her coach. Jennings is hopeful that parks and some school facilities may open soon. Mu, a potential Olympian, is supposed to enter college in the summer, but no one knows when intercollegiate sports might return.

In guidelines issued last week by the U.S.O.P.C., Finnoff said that public health authorities must say it’s safe for small groups to gather before any training may occur at public facilities.

Even then, the guidelines say, training should not be conducted as usual. Initially, athletes should socially distance, use their own equipment and wash any shared equipment with antiseptic cleaners. They should also wear facial coverings and avoid direct contact with other athletes — so no contact sports.

A tennis player can hit alone, but not with another player, who might wipe away the sweat on her face then pick up the shared ball. A basketball player can shoot but not pass. Anyone who moves to a less restrictive state should quarantine for 14 days before training, or have two negative results on Covid-19 tests.

If competitive sports do resume in the near future, they will almost certainly be contingent on widespread testing and fewer people interacting. The L.P.G.A., which has made plans to restart its season in July, circulated an email to players and caddies that said not to expect fans at its first few events. This week, World Team Tennis announced plans to bring its nine teams to a single city, which is yet to be determined, and to play the 2020 schedule, tentatively starting in July, with a revamped format at a single venue.

“It gives everyone some comfort, and right now, in the last 45 days, there hasn’t been a lot of hope and comfort,” said Carlos Silva, the chief executive of World Team Tennis.

Most nearby teams haven’t received similar backing from their local government agencies, a disparity that illustrates the complexities and inconsistencies for sports and many other industries. Terry Stoddard, the general chair for Southern California Swimming, noted that his organization has 160 member teams and said: “I wake up every day and try to figure out how to get the other 159 teams in the pool.”

For Mission Viejo’s Katie Crom, 16, the seven-week layoff was her longest since she began competing in 6-and-under age-group races. Crom, one of the country’s best butterfly specialists, said she was glad to be back swimming, and not just for the exercise.

“It is really great to see my friends again, even at a distance,” Crom said in a text message. “That is something we certainly took for granted.”

Crom and her teammates arrive wearing their suits, since the locker rooms remain closed, and enter the pool deck from the parking lot one at a time. They don’t stray from the middle of the lanes as they complete 75-minute workouts that are written on paper and affixed to the end of each 25-yard lane set up across the width of the 50-meter competition pool. Schubert wears a surgical mask and stands far enough away, Crom said, “We can barely hear him.” If the swimmers have to use the bathroom, they must trek up a hill to the single toilets at the swim school, and they are required to sanitize the toilet afterward.

“Nobody has asked to go to the bathroom,” Schubert said on Monday. “I think because nobody wants to clean the toilets.”

Or perhaps, as Crom suggested, after being kept out of the pool for so long, nobody wants to miss a single minute in the water. “Before the quarantine we took everything for granted,” Crom said, adding, “Swimming in a pool and lake was always available, since I was a child. I never thought that water would be restricted.”



Source link Nytimes.com

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