Campus Life

Equestrian, Surf, and Gymnastics at Stockton adapt to COVID-19 with socially distant activities and escapism

Written by Clementine Byrne for The Argo

Stockton’s Equestrian, Surf, and Gymnastics Clubs all have one thing in common; they’re persevering in the age of COVID-19. These three organizations have tackled the challenge of prioritizing their members’ health and safety, all while having fun and maintaining a sense of normalcy within their activities.

The three organizations are not official sports at Stockton University, but clubs run by dedicated students and Executive or E-boards. Photos courtesy of @stocktonsurf, @stocktongymnastics, and @stocktonequestrian on Instagram.

Makayla Hoffman, a junior Biology major of Stockton’s Gymnastics Club, expressed how grateful she is for the escape that the sport provides her. “My team activities don’t necessarily relate to my major directly; however, I can use team activities such as practices, to help destress and give me a getaway from the stress brought on by my major’s course load,” said Hoffman. “When I am in the gym with my team, I’m able to just be in the gym. Our love for the sport has really brought us together as a team and I think that is the best part.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stockton Gymnastics Club has taken every necessary step to ensure the safety of its members and all coaching staff.

“Because we practice off-campus, we are able to meet in-person,” said Kassia Doukhnai, senior Exercise Science major and Stockton Gymnastics Club president. “We have been checking temperatures at the door and keeping track of symptoms or lack thereof, for contact tracing. We enforce mask-wearing everywhere except during exercise.”

Stockton Surf Club, however, faced a different set of challenges because of the contactless nature of their sport. Samantha Lynam, a junior Communication Studies major of Stockton’s Surf Club, explained that COVID-19 had altered many of their planned activities outside of the surf, where the waves have kept them socially distant.

“COVID has drastically impacted our club events,” said Lynam. “Now, we have a large group chat of all our members and whenever there is a decent day of waves coming in, members have the opportunity to to paddle out together at different surf beaches around the area.”

Stockton Equestrian Club has also adjusted to the severe limitations placed on club activities and events. “We are not permitted to meet in person for our meetings, said Stacey Hudak, a senior Elementary Education major and vice president of the Equestrian Club. Because of COVID-19, the competition team can no longer travel or participate in horse shows and other formal events.

“Students are still able to take lessons as long as precautions are set in place and social distancing is possible,” Hudak said.

These alterations stemmed from Stockton’s COVID-19 protocols, stating: “All organizational meetings must be conducted virtually unless an in-person meeting is necessary and approved by Student Development Advisors or has less than ten attendees. All social distancing protocols must be followed in any in-person meetings.”

If any organizations were to violate these protocols, it “may result in loss of reservation/scheduling privileges, funding or other penalties.”

Despite this semester’s COVID-19 restrictions and hectic recruitment efforts, each organization noted they can still welcome new first-year students and transfer members to their clubs. While the ‘Get Involved Fair’ took place virtually in late September, many campus groups found the experience to be impersonal and less successful in helping them draw in new members. In light of this setback, clubs utilized new tactics and were inspired to get creative to achieve recruitment goals.

Doukhnai explained that Stockton’s Gymnastics Club decided to try a more organic method of recruitment.

“We opted not to attend the Virtual Involvement Fair this semester but instead, we advertised through social media, mainly Instagram, and by word of mouth,” said Doukhnai. “We had multiple students reach out through email before and at the start of the semester after they saw our Instagram page.”

Lynam mentioned that the Surf Club’s recruitment was also much different than in years past. “Recruitment was very difficult for us due to COVID-19,” said Lynam. “It was hard to reach out and find new members due to the Get Involved Fair being on Zoom.”

Similarly, Hudak said the Equestrian Club’s usual recruitment tactics could not carry on as planned. “We typically have one of the mini horses come on campus during the Get Involved Fair. Unfortunately, this year we did not have as many new members as we typically do, we had very few join our Zoom for the fair,” she said. “Our participation and new member numbers felt the impact of COVID-19.”

Still, each club hopes to provide a sense of escapism for its members, and in some cases, valuable major-related experience.

Hudak highlighted how the Equestrian Club has been a part of her life since the beginning of her Stockton experience. “I love working with the E-board and our club members,” Hudak said. “I’ve met some really awesome people and I am really glad I joined the club my freshman year.”

As Surf Club’s photographer and public relations E-board member, Lynam said that she practices professional skills in Surf Club while forming lifelong friendships with her fellow club members. “Being involved in this way helps my personal resume and also benefits the club with great photos,” said Lynam.

“I’ve created some of my best friends in this club and surfing is such a bonding sport and activity.”