(Pre-pandemic file photo via Jamie Gaffney)
The health and safety of athletics during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a critical conversation since last year when all sports across campus screeched to a halt.
Now, almost one year removed from those announcements and tweets, athletes have returned to their domains, while dealing with some major changes.
On campus, testing, face masks, and social distancing measures are at the forefront of the athletics department strategy to bring these sports back into competition. However, these strategies and practices look different based on the sport.
“Our testing is broken up into three groups; we have high risk, intermediate risk, and low risk,” Matt Smith, head athletic trainer, said. “High-risk sports are both football and men’s and women’s basketball, and they are tested three times a week.”
Following the high-risk category, Smith explained that the intermediate sports have 25% of their “tier one roster” tested every week, and that prior to any travel, these teams must be tested. Low-risk athletics are tested in the random sampling of the university, but have to undergo additional testing when traveling, just like the above categories.
While testing is one of the primary strategies to keep athletes safe, masking protocols are playing another large factor to prevent any spread within the sports teams.
“Inside, we need to be masked the majority of the time; however, exceptions include when you are in high-exertion activities. While outside however, social distancing measures are taken, but masks are worn when that is not [possible],” Smith said.
Unlike the fall semester, when the sports teams had to be broken down into pods, the teams have been able to return to full team practices. Smith credits this to their ability to now test on campus and use contact tracing, in order to keep the teams together and players safe.
Matt Smith also added during the interview how well our university and the athletes are doing during this time.
Smith said, “Some of the major issues we are facing outside of our school, are actually other schools trying to push the envelope. I think our school is doing a really good job, actually. We’ve gone multiple weeks without a positive test. I am really happy with what our student athletes are doing.”
Unlike some other schools, however, the caring heart and effort does not stop there for Capital. Our athletic department has committed to keeping those entering the Cap Center safe, as well.
Prior to travel, all visiting teams and universities receive a ten page PDF document that outlines a variety of helpful information. On the first page of the document is a letter signed by those at the top of the athletic department addressing and welcoming those visiting the Cap center and outlining what is covered in the packet.
The athletic administration created this packet to help keep visitors safe from the moment they are driving up to campus until the time that they leave campus. Included inside are our updated cleaning guidelines, operational preparation and spaces that will be utilized, and even a list of preferred dining locations.
Capital University Athletics has prepared night and day for the return of their sports seasons, and not only wants the athletes to know that, but the parents and fans outside of Cap, as well.
“You’re not going to make everyone happy; as long as we have competitions that is what is most important, and that’s what we are doing,” said Matt Smith.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, there is a reassurance that comes from having our sports teams back in competition. As head Track and Field Coach Hannah Weiss puts it, “Having something is better than having nothing, and all of us are grateful for that.”