After a week of pause from GC athletics due to a rise in positive cases, the Pandemic Task Force and interim athletic director Erica Albertin announced a phased return to sports, accompanied by a variety of changes to combat the rise in confirmed cases of COVID-19.
As of Tuesday, the Rec-Fitness Center has reopened and the reopening of Maple Leaf Athletics will take a program-specific approach.
Some athletic teams, such as the men’s and women’s cross country teams, were not largely affected by COVID-19. But changes have still been made to team protocol.
More safety initiatives have been put in place, not just for COVID-19-stricken teams, but for all athletics, according to Gilberto Perez Jr., dean of students.
“We recognized that a few teams were not significantly impacted by student-athletes in isolation or quarantine,” Perez said. “Those teams with COVID-19 positive student-athletes are being asked to commence a little later. Every coach has to submit a reopening proposal that outlines their plan for safe team practices, safe travel and safe meal times when traveling.”
“Safety measures such as smaller study tables and accountability measures for student-athletes not complying have to be outlined in the proposal,” he said.
On Tuesday, the women’s soccer team and men’s and women’s cross country teams resumed practice and competition – the first two teams to do so.
Women’s volleyball, men’s soccer, and men’s and women’s basketball will resume team practices and competition once the health of their teams meet Crossroads League requirements such as the enforcement of temperature checks, self-screening and weekly team testing.
While fall sports will continue on, winter sports seasons are not yet a guarantee.
“Teams not in season are on hold until further notice,” Perez said. “The phased-in plan de-densifies the RFC because not as many teams will be doing team workouts.”
The decision to come back after just a week of inactivity, slowly re-integrating athletics, was not a decision made solely by the Goshen College athletic department, according to interim athletic director Erica Albertin.
“We as the athletic leadership [team] worked very closely with the Pandemic Task Force to make this decision,” Albertin said. “We have determined to phase in athletics. The teams starting first are the in-season teams with the least amount of students so far affected by COVID-19 [in either isolation or quarantine]. This phased-in approach is modeled after the best available science on how to mitigate the spread of the virus.”
While both the athletic department and the Pandemic Task Force are hoping no further shutdowns will be necessary, a plan involving similar shutdown procedures such as halting athletics for a week or enforcing more temperature checks, has been set in place under the condition that confirmed cases continue to grow, according to Albertin.
“We continue to plan for many different scenarios,” she said. “The uptick in cases on our campus was the main reason we decided on a one week pause. We must all do our part to follow the Big Four. Athletics, by its nature, requires participants to be in close contact. We have set guidelines and are following NAIA and Crossroads League protocols as well.”
The men’s and women’s cross country teams will be the first to make their return to competition on Saturday, Oct. 24, competing at Taylor University and the Midwest XC Challenge respectively.