The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many new challenges to the sports world over the last year. Fans, players and coaches alike have seen cancelations, vacant stands and new health regulations to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
The pandemic has affected sports personnel off the field as well, including sports information directors (SIDs).
SIDs are part of USC's athletics communications and public relations department. They act as a liaison between the athletics department and its constituents. SIDs are also often responsible for the athletics department’s social media and media releases.
Joe Kepler is the SID for volleyball, which is usually a fall sport, and beach volleyball, which is usually a spring sport. But with volleyball playing a spring season due to the pandemic, Kepler has to juggle two sports at the same time this semester.
“It’s all just been kind of like, we’ll take it as it comes, and it's kind of been my edge this whole time,” Kepler said. “You tell me where I need to be, when I need to be there, and I’ll be there, so you can’t get too stressed out when there’s so many unknowns going on this year.”
Kepler said this circumstance has been “challenging,” but he feels prepared because of his experience working with multiple sports as a University at Buffalo SID.
Kepler also said he was glad for the players after the SEC announced in December that volleyball would play a spring season.
This spring has brought other surprises Kepler’s way, as he and his wife are expecting a baby in March. Kepler said he and his wife joked about the situation when volleyball's spring season was announced.
“We’re kind of really just dumping it all into one big pot right now,” Kepler said about this spring.
Another SID the pandemic has affected is Patrick Osborne. Much like Kepler, Osborne is shuffling two different sports, men’s soccer and softball, because of C-USA's decision to hold its men’s soccer conference schedule in the spring.
Osborne also took on the role of athletic department social media manager during the offseason. Despite the increased workload, Osborne said he is “incredibly thankful and lucky” to be able to work with his two sports at the same time.
“This is a unique situation with having two teams in the season at the same time, but ... it's incredibly worth it,” Osborne said. “I work for my student-athletes and I work for my coaches. I'm incredibly proud of both. They put it in a lot of time and effort, and, in return, I think they deserve a lot of time and effort from me.”
Osborne has worked with for multiple seasons with South Carolina softball head coach Beverly Smith. Smith said Osborne does “a fantastic job of really shining a light” on the softball program by highlighting players and creating interest in the program.
“[Osborne] has taken on more duties,” Smith said. “I think it just speaks to him being a team player, and really what a great teammate he is, and representative of our department.”