The USC Women’s Basketball team had their 2020 season cut short when the world came to a standstill to fight COVID-19. Seven months later, they took the court once again. But this past season was anything but ordinary for the Trojans. In this episode, Michael Fiumefreddo discovers the hardships of this past season, and when USC athletes and fans think normal sporting events will return.
The U-S-C Women’s Basketball Team was ready -- they were going to the W-N-I-T tournament with hopes of bringing home the trophy.
But.... that all came to a halt in mid-March 20-20.
We were sent home and we all thought that it would be kind of like a two week, three week thing, that we would all be back. So actually, a lot of people didn’t take much thinking that we would return. And then that quickly turned into seven months of all of us not seeing each other.
India Otto is a sophomore guard for the USC’s Women Basketball team. In the midst of her freshman season, the COVID shutdown sent her and the rest of her team packing from the tournament, with no immediate return in sight. And Otto was not prepared for how long the hiatus would be.
We didn’t expect for it to be as long as we did. But, yeah, I mean, we also didn’t have any kind of place to really play basketball, depending on what state you were at. So just trying a lot of at home workouts. They sent us equipment. And if you had access to a court, that would be great and you could train you if you could.
So...when USC announced sports would resume this past fall, athletes were thrilled. But of course, new COVID measures were in place. For freshman Otto, who was ready for the excitement of college basketball, all of this was just surreal.
It was definitely really strange, I would say, and there was no fans, not a single team that we played a loud fans, it was weird because they had like prerecorded crowd noises, which would play sometimes in some arenas. It was really kind of not very loud, which was kind of weird.
But not all of these COVID measures were bad. Some interesting perks DID come out of having to socially distance.
USC says these measures were necessary for the safety of athletes and staff. This is Rita Burke, USC Keck expert in pandemic response For her, the strict measures did pay off for the USC teams.
USC was really diligent and conscientious about following the mitigating protocols around covid, so disinfecting everything masks and so we know those strategies work. And this is the result where there’s only been one case on the women’s basketball team, which is really a testament to the fact that we can engage in athletics safely.
And for Otto, payoff finally came in the fall. She and her basketball team managed to get back on the court less than a year after the shutdown.
We went through the season with only one player about covid and where we were the only team in the PAC 12 that was available for every game. So we followed all the protocols really, really well. And I think that everything they put into place made it feel really safe.
Of course, it wasn’t easy...but to see her teammates once again on the court, it was worth it.
It was so exciting, and especially since, I mean, it was kind of tough because we didn’t get to have a lot of practices all together before because we kind of everyone came back in October and then it was kind of right into season a couple of weeks later. But it was super exciting to get back and just play and see everybody and be around everybody.
While this season was anything but ordinary for Otto, there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding how the next season will go. Will the women’s basketball team go another season hearing artificial crowd noise? Will USC fans be allowed to pack the colosseum and cheer on the football team? Trojan fans are patiently waiting for an answer.
Being a first year international student, I always had to scramble to find the games on YouTube or wherever else I could find them, so I’m really excited to actually watch those live, see the big comebacks happening live. See USC beat UCLA and especially going to the tailgates with the boys.
It’s been a rollercoaster of an experience for USC sports… COVID-19 in its second year... and college sports is wrapping up it’s most unusual year in recent history. We’ll see what that means for aspiring athletes and fans who want to once again be in the Trojan spirit.
For Annenberg Media, I’m Michael Fiumefreddo.