Adjusting to COVID-19: AMS recreational sports clubs

While the Nest reopened in May 2020, recreational sports clubs are still unable to book rooms for club activities due to provincial health orders. Club officials still have access to their rooms but it is limited to one person at a time.

With the constant changes in restriction due to COVID-19, recreational clubs have had to rethink their approach to maintaining club activities and events while abiding by new health and safety guidelines.

At the beginning of winter term one, UBC Recreation announced that physical distancing between both staff and participants should be practiced at all possible times. Individuals using the facilities were also required to wear face coverings at all UBC sports facilities except when exercising.

Before health orders limited social gatherings and room bookings were still allowed, the AMS required clubs to retrieve sanitizing spray before their room bookings were unlocked. Clubs also required members to fill in attendance surveys at any physical sessions.

Early in the summer, the executives of the UBC Figure Skating Club were informed that the rink would be closed for a while.

“One of the biggest questions that we started asking ourselves … how do we run a figure skating club without any ice?” said co-president of the club Rose Punksy. “We went from trying to take the club forward to just trying to have ice in the first place.”

With a club so dependent on its location, going online was a difficult decision and required a lot of coordination. Nevertheless, Punsky found an unexpected benefit in the mountain of challenges.

“We’ve been able to extend the activity of the club throughout the summer,” Punsky said, mentioning off-ice Zoom classes as an example.

Despite the setbacks COVID-19 has caused for the operation of many clubs, there are still some silver linings. “We’ve actually been able to up our event collaboration and it’s been a lot easier to plan events virtually,” said VP Events of Yoga Club Krysten Spencer.

Spencer explained that while there were many prospective collaborators last year, difficulty with room bookings severely impacted the club’s ability to hold events, so online options were a welcome change.

However, she also admitted that while “we’ve been able to do it [transition] really smoothly logistics wise,” competing with many free yoga resources online has been tough. Regardless, Spencer maintains that having an instructor engaging with you, even over Zoom, makes a big difference.

For other clubs, such as the Fencing Club, the option to move club activities online was never part of the plan. However, with physical distancing requirements in place, socializing during club times has been reduced.

President of the Fencing Club Yasmine Lau revealed that the club uses a Discord server to maintain the social aspect of the club, from watch parties to gaming, and even coordinating offline events together.

With a weapon that measures little more than a metre, this combat sport has physical distancing almost built in. One might even say that fencing is the perfect sport during these times.

Despite the physical distance during combat, Lau has enforced that club members wear medical masks underneath fencing masks in case members do get closer than recommended distances.

However, Lau added since most of socializing activities are done through their discord channel now, it has provided welcoming aspect for beginners. “Which is great, because we have a lot of beginners this year, even despite having this whole COVID thing happening,” Lau said.

“We are trying our best.”