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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Club Life During the Pandemic—UC Davis Tennis Club

UC Davis tennis club describes activities during COVID-19

As COVID-19 struck and social distancing became the norm, professional sports have taken major hits in both viewership and actual competition since March 2020. To make matters worse, people no longer had the freedom to safely and enthusiastically gather and play sports with social distancing in practice. As the UC Davis Tennis Club learned, it was no different in facing these struggles. 

The UC Davis Tennis Club is home to players of various skill levels and occasionally visits other UC campuses for competitions. The club thinks of its members as family and, pre-COVID, apart from weekly practice sessions, they also spent time with each other often. Like many other UC Davis sport clubs, the tennis club was a channel for people to meet new friends and enjoy a mutually loved sport. COVID-19, however, forced the club to make some changes to its activities that its members less than enjoyed.

“The pandemic initially made club activities less fun because we were separated into groups of nine,” said Chandani Madan, the president of the UC Davis Tennis Club. “Though, later on club activities began to resume in a more normal manner.”

The groups of nine rule made club activities less appealing to its members, as stringent restrictions made participating in entertaining club activities seem tedious. A lot of the experience in clubs is the camaraderie, and removing that by lowering the number of people together among other things was an adjustment that took time. 

“It was harder, and I was less willing to partake in club activities because we had to sign up to reserve a spot to play, since there were limited people allowed to play at a time,” said Sofi Liz, a member of the tennis club and a third-year animal science major. “Because of [COVID-19] we had to cancel practice and hit around. Normally during that time we would be able to meet new people to hit tennis outside of practice and to make friends.”

Besides the groups of nine rule, members were also required to keep their masks on at all times, even during practice. Over time, these masks got a bit annoying and when it was sunny during the day, it made these practices even harder.

“The pandemic inhibited more competitive activities because masks would become stuffy in the heat,” Madan said. “The competitive players played on Sunday mornings making this less of an issue as it was cooler.”

The discomfort of wearing masks didn’t just end with tennis practice, however. Members expressed their concerns about how club activities were less effective for bonding and obtaining social energy from friends. Meeting together and bonding with the club were crucial experiences that make these clubs entertaining. 

“It is now much harder to bond with club members because it is a lot harder to hangout with people after club practices—since we don’t want to hangout with people from different households,” said Yasser Abdul Bagi, the upcoming president of the club for the next school year. “Even during practice, it’s harder to bond with people because everyone is wearing masks, so you don’t really see anyone’s facial expressions.”

“Having to play with masks on makes it harder to breathe and run around the court,” Liz said. 

The future looks much brighter however, as recent trends make the next school year filled with a lot of potential for the club. With more and more people getting vaccinated by the day, the UC Davis Tennis club looks forward to continuing their club activities as is. 

“Future club activities will likely remain as they are right now. We don’t practice in the summer, so heat won’t be as big of an issue when wearing masks. I hope pandemic conditions get better and the mask requirement gets removed,” Madan said. “Social distancing violations never happened, but should a member test positive, the tennis club will follow any guidance provided by sports club and student health. We will cooperate with both to the fullest extent to help in contact tracing.”

COVID-19 certainly placed a lot of obstacles between the club members and their activities. Normalcy was lost this year but its members are now optimistic as things are looking up and they hope to have overcome the hardest times of the pandemic. 

“During the fall when sports clubs were relegated to Zoom, I lost all motivation to be in the tennis club. I had always loved being with my friends in the club, but Zoom made it way different, and not in a fun way,” Bagi said. “Once we got back in person during Winter Quarter, I regained my motivation for the club.”  

Written by: Justin Yu-Hsun Chu — sports@theaggie.org

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