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Coronavirus and OC International Athletes

COVID-19. Corona. The Chinese virus. Wu-flu. Whatever one decides to call it, the coronavirus is seen on the news at night, on the radio or a podcast in the car and in the restrictions placed on everyday life. 

The coronavirus has infiltrated most aspects of life, including entertainment. The NBA, NFL and MLB have all seen massive changes with restarts and quarantine requirements. The effects of the coronavirus on the everyday lives of athletes dominates sports radio. The coronavirus’ effect on the international student, however, is often forgotten. 

In the 2014-2015 school year, the men’s soccer team at Oklahoma Christian University made its move to Division II from the Heartland Conference.  A growing need for recruitment followed this change. 

Soccer is unique in the fact that unlike many sports such as football and basketball, the United States has fewer players in the sport. This is supported by a survey found by the National Federation of State High School Association:  from 2012-2013, soccer was the fifth most popular sport for high school athletes, trailing football, baseball, track and basketball. Because of this, international students are highly sought after to fill out and improve the roster. 

Thomas van der Meulen, a 20-year-old forward from Grou, Netherlands, is playing his second year at Oklahoma Christian. Meulen said the coronavirus was “a reason to return sooner” as he knew he wanted to go to Oklahoma Christian. He wanted to avoid any chance of not being able to play for the team. 

“I was scared of the borders closing again,” Meulen stated. “The students weren’t allowed inside of the country at first, and as soon as they opened the borders, I flew the next day.” 

Meulen also discussed the conditions in his homeland. Meulen told of how the Netherlands began fining people for violating the 6-feet laws and how this would go on a citizen’s criminal record, affecting the long-term future of that individual.  

Thomas also spoke about the switch to a spring season. 

“We would have a whole new team, like 10 or 15 new guys, and we would have one week to get used to each other,” Meulen said. “Then preseason was over, and we would have games.” 

Meulen said he preferred the season in the spring as a chance for him and his teammates to bond and to understand each other in a way that a winter season did not allow. He also predicted fewer injuries as more time to work out and fewer sessions in a day keep players from burning out and hurting themselves.  

The NCAA has yet to allow teams to meet, and the team does not know what restrictions will be put in place. Meulen guessed this process would include dividing players into groups and drills that keep players from being too close, unlike close defensive drills or scrimmaging.

In regards to non conference play, Thomas gave his opinion. 

“I would prefer to place teams outside of the conference, since this allows the team to see different styles of play. That way, if a national tournament does happen, the team can be prepared for it.”

Thomas made it clear that he would do almost anything to play for Oklahoma Christian this season. Meulen applauded Oklahoma Christian and the measures put in place, especially as someone who had to quarantine for a two-week period upon returning. 

“OC handled this really well, and they brought good food for us 3 times a day in quarantine,” Thomas said. “I hope that they have [the athletes] tested every week.”

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