COVID-19 remains a relevant and inescapable factor within Taylor Athletics. Various safety protocols are no longer required of athletes, but the Delta variant is keeping the Taylor Pandemic Response team on its toes.
Athletic Director and head baseball coach Kyle Gould said athletes no longer have to complete daily temperature checks before games and practice. Gould said these daily check-ins proved to be ineffective on the professional and amateur level. Instead, Taylor athletes must report COVID-19 symptoms to their coaches, get tested as needed and file contact tracing if they are exposed to the virus.
Vaccinations are not required of Taylor athletes, but are still strongly recommended. Those not vaccinated are encouraged to get an antibody test.
“They can get that test and know if they have natural immunity,” Gould said. “If they don’t, they know that too and they can make a more informed decision.”
Scheduling competitions and less strict travel restrictions are particularly positive benefits of COVID-19 dissipation.
“Last fall, we had no overnight travel (per) the policy and by the time we got to spring, it changed,” Gould said. “So, our fall teams will have the ability to do that. In fact, three of our teams were supposed to go on mission trips in August. Instead of going overseas, women’s volleyball went to Fort Lauderdale, women’s soccer went to a reservation in New Mexico and men’s soccer went to Wyoming.
Taylor football will once again be playing Butler University at Turner Stadium after missing last season’s match-up due to COVID-19 limitations. The series began in 2010 and is set for Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.
If the Delta variant of COVID-19 does bring an upward surge in positive cases, Gould plans to keep in touch with the athletic staff and university leadership.
“We’re gonna approach (coronavirus tracking) with optimism,” Gould said. “We were able to finish every sport last year, have seasons and have some great successes and we’re really proud of that. And, we’re approaching this year assuming we’re going to be able to do the same, and hope that our athletes do the same.”
Head women’s soccer coach Scott Stan echoed Gould’s reference. A majority of Stan’s players have already been vaccinated or have immunity, so he said additional protocols are not mandatory on a daily basis.
Taylor women’s soccer has been practicing the past few weeks on campus and went on a mission trip to New Mexico from Aug. 15-18. Most of the team has only experienced college athletics with the COVID-19 component, and new freedoms have resulted in positive reactions.
“It’s just relief,” Stan said. “Our sophomores are having their first normal year ever. So, for the freshmen and sophomores, this is a brand-new world for them, but for the ones who’ve already been through it, they just feel life is getting back to normal.”
The Trojans had their first game on Aug. 28 at home against Asbury University.
Stan said his pre-season goal for his team is winning the Crossroads League conference championship or ranking in the top four in hopes of a national tournament bid.
Co-team captains, senior Riley Massey and junior Hannah Dempsey, are players who Stan believes are the ones to watch this coming season, but also pointed out the balance of skills his players have across the board.
As the athletic director, Gould offered his prayer for Taylor Athletics throughout this tumultuous climate.
“Right now, there’s a lot of division around these topics,” Gould said. “I think our athletic teams have a great opportunity to just show a ton of leadership with this … We need to see examples of people living together well amongst differences of opinion. … There’s never been a better time for leaders to emerge.”