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The rise of recreational sports during the pandemic

Although the sounds of whistles, cheers and shouts may have filled your ears last fall, that certainly is not the case this year. Yelling to your teammate across the field with a mask on and playing defense while maintaining a six-foot distance are challenges that no athlete can easily tackle.

In addition to reminiscing about the fall sports season, the warm, sunny days added on to many students’ desire to get outside. As a result, new and returning students embraced the fresh air, emerging from dorms all around campus after the initial COVID-19 test results came back. With competitive sports out of the picture for the near future, students spotlighted different types of fall competition this year. While the pandemic introduced a socially distanced lifestyle worldwide, it also brought about the rise of Spikeball and frisbee.

A spin-off from the classic game of volleyball, Spikeball incorporates the elements of passing, movement and, hence the name, spiking. Built from a circular horizontal net, one team has three touches before the ball ricochets off the net to the opposing team. The freedom to move and spread out while passing makes this game ideal for scratching that competitive itch you have had while being cooped up indoors, all while continuing to maintain a safe distance. Another advantage is that it is not necessary for players to run miles to play the game, making mask-wearing more bearable on those warmer days. 

Now think of the quintessential, Hollywood picture of a college campus. Perhaps you envision students studying in the library far into the night, or a football game with all the fans showing their school spirit. But the one most consistent image is that of a group of friends throwing a frisbee on the quad without a care in the world. This fall especially, St. Olaf embraced the love college students have for the infamous plastic disc and brought that scene from Pitch Perfect to life. 

Whether it was an exciting round of pass, a chance at glory in frisbee golf or a more intense pickup game of Ultimate, students of all frisbee skill levels took to the empty greenery to show off their talents. Never before have I seen such a variety of different ways to throw and catch than I have during my first weeks on campus. Meeting new people outside and staying active all while having fun are some of the main reasons why frisbee has climbed to the top of games on college campuses, whether you are playing it to compete or to have fun. With minimal equipment to be carried to the fields, no refs needed and abundant participation, frisbee is a go-to choice.

On the beautiful fall days when you have exhausted yourself from schoolwork or your usual workout routine, consider changing it up with a game of frisbee or Spikeball. For those looking to play more competitively, this is the time to begin honing your skills for when club and intramural sports begin again. While I continue to work on my aim, technique and all other skills surrounding frisbee, I look forward to the day when I can watch a game of ultimate in its full glory.


esterl1@stolaf.edu