This fall semester has been one for the books, especially when it comes to sports. With major adjustments and safety precautions in place due to COVID-19, game days looked different. In some instances, teams were forced to reschedule or even cancel games due to cases on their respective teams.
At Texas State, every fall sport was fortunate enough to still be able to play out their seasons in a redesigned manner; fans were able to come out and show their support in a limited capacity.
Members of the media had to adjust as well. As a photographer, my job was altered, but I am thankful I was still able to get on the field safely.
Personally, football is my favorite sport to capture and the one I was most involved with this year. Some of my favorite pictures I have ever taken are from this season. Since game days are an all-day event, there are so many opportunities to capture other aspects of the game—the reactions of players on and off the field.
Before the semester officially started, the Texas State football team took the field during fall camp in preparation for the 2020 season and got its first glimpse at the new normal. Masks had to be worn, social distancing was enforced and the team had to get tested multiple times a week.
There were multiple changes to the original schedule as other conferences canceled their seasons. The cancellations opened up spots for the Bobcats to take on teams such as Brigham Young University and Boston College.
The Bobcats practiced almost every day and were required to get up to three COVID-19 tests a week to ensure safety for the weekend’s game and inner-squad protection.
At practice, we got our first look at sophomore quarterback Brady McBride along with the other new Bobcats taking the field. Along with the new commits and transfers were returning Bobcats looking to improve in 2020. Under Head Coach Jake Spavital, the Bobcats prepared for a season in which no one knew what would happen.
For photographers, football game access was limited. Only a few photographers were allowed field access throughout the season. Along with special wristbands for field access, everyone had to get screened and wear a mask the entire time; however, once inside Bobcat Stadium, the Bobcats' energy was fun to capture.
Even though the team finished 2-10 overall with only one home win, the games were filled with exciting plays and special moments between the players and coaches.
Before the final game of the season, tragedy struck the Bobcats as sophomore defensive back Khambrail Winters was fatally shot Nov. 25. The team honored Winters before the game and walked arm-in-arm holding his jersey.
The Bobcat soccer team finished 4-9-1 overall and had a brief run in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. The team had a shortened game schedule, only playing 14 games overall and, in conference play, only faced the four Sun Belt teams in its division.
Many of the same COVID-19 precautions as football were put into place, including player COVID-19 testing and limited capacity at games. Players on the sidelines and fans in attendance were also required to wear masks.
As a photographer, field access was much more limited; we were restricted to only one side of the field instead of being allowed around the entire sideline.
The final sport of the fall semester I got to cover was volleyball. The team was on a mission to win the Sun Belt Conference for the third time in a row and was successful in that goal. Under new Head Coach Sean Huiet, the Bobcats went 24-2 overall and are set to participate in the NCAA tournament in 2021.
When looking at the season from a COVID-19 perspective, many things changed. The team played a three-game series over one weekend against each Sun Belt team in its division instead of the typical one home and one away game throughout the season. On the court, the teams wore masks on the sidelines, did not switch sides of the court between matches and opted for a wave after the game instead of shaking hands.
The typical floor bleachers of Strahan Arena were not open to fans, and the media were limited to just the upper-level seating. Masks were required at all times, and there was a capacity limit for Strahan Arena.
This season, I was also able to photograph Huiet and his son, Declan, for a feature story. I loved that opportunity to see a different side of the team outside the game and learn more about the people who make up the volleyball team.
Overall, this semester has been one full of adjustments—learning how to do my job differently and being thankful for the opportunities. At the beginning of the pandemic, I think everyone wondered if fall sports would even happen, and if so, how? I think Texas State Athletics has been successful at keeping the teams and fans safe while still allowing play to continue.
I hope the Bobcat community and the world as a whole can continue to work together to keep one another safe by showing respect and taking proper precautions when around others. We can now look forward to the start of men’s and women’s basketball in the final month of the year and then baseball and softball later in 2021, but we must stay safe just as we did this semester to get there.