While uncertainties still remain a threat, Fall sports are set to begin practicing in some semblance of normal starting this week. To ensure a baseline of safety, all Fall athletes underwent mandatory COVID tests last week.
I think one of the biggest challenges of the pandemic has been the maddening uncertainty of so many things,” said Stockton Athletic Director, Kevin McHugh.
Once those results are secured, practices will be divided into small groups of players at various times of the day. Contact sports will err on the side of safety and focus practices around individual training, fitness, and other socially distant play. Before they can participate, athletes must also complete an online symptom screening the morning of a practice day. If it is not completed, or if symptoms are present, permission to play will not be granted.
Throughout the Fall season, surveillance COVID testing will be conducted biweekly, randomly selecting 25% of each team to be tested.
While this is progress, McHugh admits that in over 40 years of college athletic involvement, he and his colleagues have never worked so hard, only to feel so frustrated so often.
“In our business, we are used to confronting a challenge and then figuring out how to meet and overcome that challenge. But with COVID, the ground seems to be constantly shifting and things change with such rapidity that it is difficult to feel planted long enough to make concrete decisions and to realize meaningful progress,” he said.
Maintaining a “slow and steady wins the race” mindset towards returning to play is crucial. By nature of COVID, it’s essential for athletics to approach this hurdle with patience and diligence to optimize chances of fully competing again. Staff, coaches, and players will each have their own role in achieving that goal.
The war on COVID may be far from over, but a tentative outline for athletics is a step in the right direction. Everyone will rely on each other to act accordingly.
McHugh believes his student-athletes are up to the task. “I am confident that our student-athletes understand the challenges and complexities of the battle we are fighting and that they are committed to do what is needed in order to get back on track,” he said.
“I look forward to us doing so one step at a time, knowing that this will eventually be behind us and we will be stronger for having endured.”