It wasn’t the start to Pac-12 road action that the University of Utah soccer team wanted, but it was a weekend that served as a reminder to the team about the importance of staying healthy and how to do so for the rest of the season. At the end of September and beginning of October, the Utes’ goal to earn victories against Washington and Washington State evaporated as a handful of players fell under the weather.
Midfielder Holly Daugirda said flu-like symptoms first started with teammates Tavia Leachman and Ireland Dunn. Although the team tried to prevent the sickness from spreading to others by distancing themselves from those who were not feeling well, that didn’t get rid of the bug. Daugirda didn’t get sick until the team made its way back to Utah after the weekend losses, and not feeling well took its toll on her during practice that next week.
“For some reason and somehow, it just started spreading so quickly, and I think there was seven of us total who got it,” Daugirda said. “It was definitely hard, especially [against Washington State]. It’s not like all the starters should have been playing together, but a lot of talented players weren’t on the field. It was difficult not having certain people on the field.”
At first, when two Utes fell sick, associate athletics trainer Tom Iriye said they tried to keep them both in the same room — secluding them a little bit — to stop the sickness from spreading. But with the flu, Iriye said, it is inevitable.
It was only a matter of time before more athletes on the team, who share close quarters on planes, eats and hang outs, came down with the illness. Knowing that, Iriye made sure the Utes were staying hydrated and eating well, but he knows there are some things that are out of his control.
“The fact is when they train hard, then basically their immune system decreases,” Iriye said. “Then they are a lot more susceptible to colds and illnesses like that than the normal person because their bodies are depleting certain nutrients.”
While training can cause an athlete to get sick, becoming ill can also affect athletes’ practices. According to Iriye, being sick depletes the Utes’ energy sources, and if those get depleted, they aren’t able to sustain things they need to do for long periods of time. Not only that, but trying to speed the recovery process up faster can make a sickness worse.
“A lot of the times, athletes will think since they missed training the other day, they have to catch up.” Iriye said. “So I tried to promote them coming back gradually, not worry about the extra stuff and not do it because it will just deplete them more and actually hurt them for the following day if they do too much right off the bat.”
It can be tedious for players to have to sit out from matches in order to recover from an illness, but staying healthy is something Daugirda takes seriously. She knows when the Utes are healthy, they can play together as one with no bug slowing them down.