“We had ups and downs”: this is how sport returns to UNAM between nostalgia, fear and face masks

In May 2022, the student community was able to resume face-to-face sports activities (Photo: illustration Infobae México/ Jesús Abraham Áviles)

Two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) he had his community back in the classroom, including sports. It was in september 2021 when the gradual return to classes was announced, but it was until January semester 2022 when the university community returned to occupy most of the physical spaces.

In that period, the representative and recreational sport of the university had to adapt to the changes in the epidemiological traffic light and the restrictions of the same UNAM to continue with your activity and be the best prepared for the return to the facilities.

In interview with Infobae MexicoValentín Albarrán Ullola, director of physical culture of the General Directorate of University Sports (DGDU)told how it is that the resumption of the different sports activities in person was proposed, both university competitions as well as recreational ones for all those belonging to the highest house of studies.

First stage: UNAM representative sport

Sports UNAM
Some disciplines have already participated in the National Universiade (Photo: courtesy DGDU UNAM)

They were subject to the sanitary regulations authorized by the UNAM and the Secretary of Health in Mexico. It was in June 2021 when the gradual return of 30% for the representative teams with the illusion of starting their calendar of competitions of theto CONADE and the CONDDE (National Council for Sports in Education).

Once there was a significant reduction in infections nationwideat the beginning of May 2022 a 100% capacity was allowed to carry out activities in open spaceswhile on courts, gyms and other closed facilities there is still a 60 percent reduction.

The testingdisinfection of the space and the use of face masks They were basic elements in the resumption of activities.

The DGDU provided coaches and athletes with a hygiene kit and other props to protect themselves from the coronavirus, in addition to the Olympic Stadium space providing free tests so that athletes could meet with their teams with the guarantee of not being infected, according to the testimony from Oswaldo Soto, coach of the Pumas UNAM animation and cheerleading group.

Oswaldo Soto told Infobae Mexico how was your return to face-to-face activities with your discipline. The first thing they did was a detailed planning to reoccupy the “El Arrancadero” field in Ciudad Universitaria.

Sports UNAM
At the beginning, the use of face masks was essential to practice sports (Photo: Twitter/@DeporteUNAM)

“We had to enter our work program so that they could authorize it under the director’s guidelines and if he didn’t like it, he would come back to us to modify our work plan.”

For August 2021 They set foot on campus for the first time since the closure of UNAM, they started the sessions with a small group of five people, then they went to 10 cheerleaders and thus their groups grew until they had everyone. In mid-October 2021 they carried out a hybrid systemnamely online and face-to-face activities for each week.

At the beginning they trained with the use of face masks, as the epidemiological traffic light remained green, it was no longer essential and became freely usable. The vaccination campaign it helped create a space of security and protection among the athletes, so the reception of the student community was favorable.

It should be noted that not all of them reactivated face-to-face attendance because of the 83 official disciplinesonly those that could train outdoors and with reduced capacity returned, according to Albarrán Ullola.

Sports UNAM
The vaccination campaign helped create a space of security and protection among the athletes, so the reception of the student community was favorable (Photo: courtesy DGDU UNAM)

Some of the first to return were: Futbol soccerAmerican, basketballrugby, rowing, canoeing, cycling, baseball, beach volleyball, entertainment groups, among others.

Other cases had to migrate to new spaces that allowed them to train outdoors, such was the case with the Prepa cheer group No. 6Since they did not have adequate space, and because of the school calendar, they had to go to Ciudad Universitaria, according to what they reported. Karla Mosqueda Y alan valley, Antonio Caso High School coachesto this medium.

Second stage: UNAM sports culture and approach to the university community

For february 2022 began greater activities aimed at the general student community, mainly at the undergraduate level in University CityFaculties of Higher Studies (FES) and some high school level schools (National Preparatory Schools and CCHs), as long as the protocol of each campus allows it.

(Photo: Cuartoscuro)
The DGDU resumed the promotion of sports culture in schools (Photo: Saúl López/ Cuartoscuro.com) (Saúl López/)

On the part of the DGDU they resumed the promotion of sports culture in schools, specified Valentin Albarrán. Recreational and preparation activities for students were resumed at 100 percent. On the main campus known as “The islands” The entertainment sessions for the entire community are back.

“We have the Puma sports space in Ciudad Universitaria de planta, from Wednesday to Friday from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. with different activities such as yoga, recreational sports activation, medieval combat, dance, a series of activities for all university students”, explained the director of physical culture.

In addition through social media and for the UNAM Gazette they began to invite students to join the sports sessions that were scheduled weekly.

Regarding the use of Olympic Pool and the weight gym, both had repairs and change of furniture to be in optimal conditions. It is expected that by the month of July the community will be able to resume their classes, all with a prior appointment arranged at the Puma network online.

Sport UNAM gymnasiums unam university sport pumas unam gym cu
In closed spaces the capacity is 60% (Photo: Instagram/@deporteunam)

“We are 90% back to normal,” said Valentín.

The main challenges of returning to physical spaces

As soon as the senior teams of UNAM, faculties, high schools and humanities schools were authorized to return, they gathered their athletes to prepare for future competitions, in the case of the representatives it was the National Universiadewhile within the UNAM it was about interprepas tournaments, interfaculties and others.

And among the obstacles that arose were: the regrouping of teams, regaining trust between teammates and the psychological factor. Both the director of physical culture and Oswaldo Soto agreed that the pandemic led athletes who do not live in Mexico City to return to their places of originso not everyone was able to join quickly.

Sports UNAM
Some of the first to return were: soccer, American football, basketball, rugby, rowing, canoeing, cycling, baseball, beach volleyball, animation groups, among others (Photo: Twitter/@DeporteUNAM)

In addition, the generational changes caused modifications in the representative teams, as detailed by the also coach of the cheerleading group of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences:

“Like any sport we had ups and downs with the pandemic; I had losses of 175, I went to 80 athletes in total and when we returned to face-to-face, passing the major league, we had increases in terms of enrollment, from 85 we went to almost 180-190″.

Once they were reunited, the trainers were advised by the DGDU to rejoin their activities in the new normality and eradicate the fear of contact with the other.

“What he was looking for coach It was to generate confidence in us to be able to return and feel the security of being outside again. She managed it with the exercises: ‘If you can do this, it’s because you’re healthy’”, was the testimony of Maria Ofelia Huerta Reyescheerleader for Pumas UNAM and student at the Faculty of Law.

And it is that between fear of getting infectedthe nostalgia for having lost two years, the confinement and the new normality were psychological factors that the athletes faced and the student community in general due to the lack of interaction and recreational activities:

Sports UNAM
The part that benefited the most from the return was the UNAM community itself (Photo: Twitter/@DeporteUNAM)

We noticed that there was an increase in rates of depression among studentsthere has been a wide participation of different entities of the UNAM, in our case giving them sports activities that promote socialization and raise serotonin and endorphin levels with physical activity”, expressed Valentín Albarrán.

While in the case of practicing a sport and being exposed to contagion, the head coach of the Pumas UNAM representative team explained: “There is no longer fear but they are aware that it can happen”.

The part that benefited the most from the return was the UNAM community since in addition to making physical activity a habit, the university space became a fundamental part of their personal development.

“It fills me with nostalgia, coming back, being here. It fills me with warmth to be able to be here, my experience with this sport has been like being in a family and being without this, for me, was very strong”, said Huerta Reyes.

Although university sports resumed their course, athletes like Ofelia considered that the two years lost will not be recovered in the coming months, but rather it will be a long process that will be achieved as a team. “We still need to regain the bond of trust that we had generated before the pandemicbut I feel that we are on a good path to be the Pumas UNAM of 2019 again.


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