In the world of sports, athletes have been making headlines for refusing to get vaccinated despite ramifications that can hurt their respective teams. Student-athletes at Saint Mary’s see both sides of this issue.
By Ryan Ford
For students at Saint Mary’s who live on campus or take in-person classes, proof of vaccination is required, a message that was reiterated by President Richard Plumb in a statement that was released this past April. According to Saint Mary’s Covid-19 Resources web page, 97% of undergraduate students provided such proof.
This also applies to Saint Mary’s athletes. Ryan Reggiani is the Deputy Athletics Director for External Operations at Saint Mary’s, and confirmed this to be the case, “This [vaccination mandate] was the same for all student-athletes as well.” Reggiani says that in addition to campus and county mandates, the NCAA recommended an additional step, “which includes more testing for non-vaccinated student-athletes.”
Many of Saint Mary’s athletes play sports that are practiced and played entirely outdoors, where the risk of spreading coronavirus is considerably lowered. But what about sports that practice and play indoors, such as volleyball and basketball? How are student-athletes feeling about vaccine mandates, as it pertains to themselves and their teammates?
Makena Mastora ‘25 is a first-year player for Saint Mary’s women’s basketball team. Playing basketball at the collegiate level has always been a dream for Mastora, “so when I got the opportunity to play at Saint Mary's, it made my college decision process a lot easier.” Mastora says that the athletic department has heavily suggested that athletes get vaccinated for the upcoming season, but that they “respect others’ decision not to get vaccinated, and have certain protocols for them to follow in order to keep our teams safe.”
In the NBA, star players have been making headlines for refusing to get vaccinated. Kyrie Irving plays for the Brooklyn Nets, and since New York County requires those attending or participating in indoor sporting events to be vaccinated, he will be unable to play in any home games due to his vaccination status (per NBA.com). Not only does this affect himself, but Irving’s team will be without one of their best players because of his decision.
Chandler Cowell ‘22 is a senior at Saint Mary’s, and a member of the women’s volleyball team. Cowell believes that the relationship between athletes and their teammates is a special bond. “When you're a part of a team, it's like having a family that helps you grow and pushes you to be the best version of yourself every single day.” The senior from Kula, Hawaii believes that being part of a team comes with many responsibilities, and among those is availability: “I do think that as a collegiate athlete and as a teammate, you need to be available for your team at all times in any situation.”
When asked if student-athletes at Saint Mary’s will have to be vaccinated in order to play games in San Francisco, Reggiani said that the city of San Francisco is allowing outside teams from other counties and states to participate in athletic events without all having to be vaccinated. If this were to change, however, it may put unvaccinated players and their teammates in a tough spot.
Mastora believes that getting vaccinated is the safest way for all athletes to participate in their sport, but also hopes for a level of understanding among teammates. “While they would not be fulfilling their role on the team [if a player chose to not get vaccinated], it’s a personal decision that has a lot of factors.”
Cowell, on the other hand, feels that as an athlete, you must consider how your actions affect the team and the season. “If athletes are missing large chunks of time due to this issue, it puts the team in a very difficult situation and can be really hard on all players involved.”
The issue of vaccination is complex, and many see it as a personal decision. But the ramifications of this decision, especially in the world of sports, stretch far beyond the scope of one person, as Cowell puts it. “With everything going on in the world right now, the bottom line in my eyes is this, think beyond yourself and your experience.”
Madison Sciba '24,