Sports at Taylor University are back.
Men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer and volleyball all had events last weekend. Athletes are back practicing and competing and fans, although limited, are back inside Odle Arena and Turner Stadium.
None of that would be possible without the various protocols that Taylor student-athletes and coaches are following right now.
“The adjustments were big,” senior soccer player Reyna Williams said. “Overall, the excitement to be back and playing with everyone, that takes over any of the negative thoughts on (protocols.)”
For Williams, some of those adjustments include mask-wearing when not engaging in a drill, standing at a distance as much as possible at practices, showing up earlier each day to get her temperature checked and screened for symptoms, and staggering times in the locker room.
While some drills are impossible to do socially-distant, the team is finding ways to minimize these situations and still get a full and successful practice in.
Head Women’s Soccer Coach Scott Stan is having to stagger the end of practice, and send groups of five athletes back to the locker room at a time. Each of his athletes also has to see him before practice. Those are a few of the things that have created new and unique challenges for Stan and his team.
“We have a two-hour slot for practice,” Stan said. “And normally we go about an hour and a half. Now, we’re going two hours, and in those two hours I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished as much as I did in the hour and a half before.”
Stan credits a lot of that to having to adjust to new rules and regulations. Even simple things like not sharing water bottles can cause the lost time to add up.
Much like Williams though, Stan is fine with the changes if it means a safe and successful season.
Each athlete is checked for symptoms and using a spreadsheet, Stan reports symptoms to their athletic trainer. If they’re running a high body temperature and showing another symptom, they’re sent to a medical professional.
“We need to protect you if you are sick, but also protect the other 23 women that want to compete,” Stan said.
Gamedays will also look different for athletes this fall. Attendance at Taylor sporting events will be limited.
Williams said during bus rides for road games, the team will have to wear masks the whole time. She also mentioned that they will be screened one hour before leaving.
“You have to get your temperature and other symptoms checked,” Williams said. “Just to make sure that we don’t have any signs of it when we get on the bus. And if you do have a symptom, you have to stay back.”
Players and coaches aren’t the only ones affected by the changes though, as athletic trainers have seen a shift in their responsibilities and daily routine.
Head Athletic Trainer KC Hackman said that both his day-to-day and larger roles have changed due to COVID-19.
“The number of athletes allowed in the training room has changed, so we’re doing a lot more appointments in the mornings,” Hackman said. “We’ve had to work around classes to do treatments and rehab with athletes, which is a big change.”
Hackman said that on a normal fall afternoon between 2:30 and 4, he would see anywhere from 35 to 50 athletes. Now, he’s limited to 8 at a time.
Williams said that smaller and more minor injuries may require more self-treatment, but both her and Stan praised the athletic trainers for their ability to still see athletes and help them, despite all the new obstacles in place.
“We’ve been blessed and lucky,” Stan said. “I haven’t noticed any difference with things like ankles being taped and iced afterward. They’re doing a great job.”
While all involved in Taylor athletics have certainly seen their daily routine and schedules altered by COVID-19, the optimism for a new season is as strong as ever. Those around teams have noticed their excitement.
“The most common theme is athletes are just happy to be back,” Hackman said. “Happy to not be stuck at home and back on campus.”