COVID-19 has put a pause on everything that we would regularly enjoy in life, including sports — something that helps some escape from their daily routine. However, slowly but surely, sports are coming back.
Rowan University Athletics will begin letting teams train on Monday, Oct. 5, and will ensure the safety of the students and staff by not allowing any students to have physical contact during these training sessions. Rowan’s Athletic Director Dr. John Giannini and the school have come up with protocols and guidelines that all coaches and players must follow.
“The workouts will have small groups, no more than 10 athletes at a time,” Giannini said. “They will be socially distanced, the coaches/trainers will take everyone’s temperatures before starting workouts and ask if they have any potential symptoms to screen people properly.”
Players are also required to bring their own equipment and water bottles, to make sure there is no potential spread.
“Sports equipment will be sanitized before and after every workout, and coaches will wear masks,” Giannini said. “These practices will not have physical contact, they are for development and strength and conditioning and they are completely voluntary.”
When preparing for the worst case scenario, Giannini and Rowan University are ready to handle the situation if a player or coach were to test positive.
“That individual would immediately go into isolation,” Giannini said. “They are isolated for 10 days and they cannot come back to train until they have been symptom free for three days after that. And then they have a progression with very gradual exercise. The first day might start off as walking and then the final day would be actual full participation in the practice… and it’s a 20-day gradual build up if you did have symptoms.”
Even with sports coming back on Oct. 5, there is no rush in having full-contact practices. For the remainder of the semester, athletes will be focused strictly on conditioning and developing their individual skills.
“We are doing social distance workouts all semester and, at some point, if we’re actually going to have actual games, we have to have actual practices,” Giannini said. “We’re not comfortable with doing that at this point, we’ll reevaluate after this semester.”
An example of this would be players going through their plays but not having defense.
Players are monitored by their respective coaches at all times when they want to go and workout. This means that the players cannot go into the gym on their own accord without the supervision of their coach.
“Our facilities are closed to our student athletes unless they have a coach supervising them,” Giannini said. “The biggest reason for that is pick up games, physical contact does not occur until we feel we are ready for that.”
Two of the biggest questions are when will fans be allowed back into the stands and what will the capacity be like. With the world changing as fast as the numbers, only time will tell.
“Too early to tell,” Giannini said. “As an administrator, during the time of COVID, the news comes in hour by hour, it’s even a smaller time frame than day by day.”
Giannini and the Athletics Department are focused on what they can do in the present day, and anything following will be dealt with when the time comes. Having fans back in the stands and returning to some kind of normalcy is the ultimate goal, however, everything is going day by day.
“Any decision that does not involve today is impossible to predict,” Giannini said. “For example, even though we are starting these workouts, we can be shut down at any time. We are hoping to have games in the spring, we would love to have fans there, but it’s just far too early to tell in a world where things change hourly.”
Where there is so much uncertainty about how the world will shape out in the upcoming months, it is significant to point out that Rowan has taken steps and installed protocols to ensure the safety of its staff and student athletes.
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