Women’s basketball team adjusts to new challenges

With the overarching influence of COVID-19 persistent this year, many organizations like the NCAA have had to adjust accordingly to remain operational. 

Katey Klucking, a junior guard for Truman State University women’s basketball team, said the pandemic has affected many student athletes’ routines.

“As a college athlete your life is strictly based around a schedule and COVID-19 has thrown our schedules all out of sorts ever since the spring,” Klucking said.

Klucking also acknowledged the difficulty of self-workouts, as gyms in her hometown of Columbia, Missouri, were shutting down and a basketball court was nearly impossible to find for a reasonable daily rental price.

Since the team came back together, the Bulldogs have been trying to prepare for the upcoming season.

“We started to get back into the flow of things,” Klucking said. “Team practices and weight lifting together allowed us to rebuild our team chemistry.”

Team chemistry will play a large part in keeping the team together during the tough season under new guidelines according to the junior guard.

This season will begin under the no-fans protocol, which means athletes, like Klucking, might have to play the entire season without support from family or friends in the stands.

“Playing in an empty gym is pretty boring, and that crowd energy that we get from Pershing will be immensely missed,” Klucking said. “We just have to bring that energy from ourselves to every single game this season.”

Theo Dean, head women’s basketball coach, is entering his second season on top, and said he is looking to propel the program to new heights.

Dean shares his frustrations about the COVID-19 protocols with other coaches in the nation.

“I think the biggest challenge was my players having to find ways to access facilities to workout on their own this offseason,” Dean said. “Players had to be flexible and creative in the ways they worked out, including outdoor exercises.”

Players on the team who reside in states around the country were also of concern to Dean, because some small towns could not provide proper facilities.

While players faced this challenge, weekly COVID testing and masked practices were also put into effect as the team came back together this fall.

“Playing basketball in a mask is terrible, and our players had to suffer through the first few weeks of practice with them on,” Dean explained.

Outside of the player-affected protocols, the season itself has been reshaped by the GLVC into a conference-only schedule divided up into divisions. Truman will participate in the Central Division this year. 

Dean said he thinks this season will take even more mental toughness than previous seasons, as each game is not promised, placing more intensity between teams when they are played.

Junior center Allison Thomas faced an offseason during a pandemic, but also an offseason of rehabilitation from her ACL injury last season. 

“I chose to stay in Kirksville over the summer to have access to a physical therapist with so many being unavailable in my hometown,” the Kansas City native said. “Having access to a physical therapist and their equipment was crucial to my recovery this offseason.”

Thomas said she understands the importance of being healthy for the season, and expressed positive sentiments about her progress as she is projected to be ready by the first game. 

“The biggest team challenge has definitely been working through COVID protocols and staying healthy so that we can take the court again,” Thomas said.

A lack of fans in the stands is also an unpleasant factor for the junior center, but she said she still recognizes the need for the team to bring high energy levels to each game this season.