The Northwest Conference (NWC) announced that all conference competition was to be suspended due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic until Jan. 1, 2021. Cross country, golf, and tennis were the last fall sports to have their season cancelled after receiving word on Aug. 17. However, the conference has made it clear that all sports can engage in practice and athletically related activities subject to any NCAA Division III restrictions and directives at the local, state, or college level.
Since receiving word on the ability to practice, coaches at Lewis & Clark have been scrambling to find a way to keep student-athletes in shape for the Spring 2021 season, while balancing the weight of keeping everyone as safe as possible. Universally among the LC athletic department, coaches and players must wear masks at all times, keep social-distance rules in order, and use facilities only when permitted.
The football team would usually be well on their way into the season at this point in the year; instead, they are only training five days a week. Their modified practice consists of wearing masks at all times, strict social distancing rules on the field, and meetings are most often held in the stands of Griswold Stadium.
Unlike many sports, the women’s soccer team had to modify some of the typical playing styles in order to practice this fall. For instance, players are not allowed to slide tackle, handle or head the ball. They are also not permitted to take part in any group celebrations, such as high fives and hugs, that require physical contact.
Volleyball is another sport that had to adjust a few of their usual traditions. Currently, they are not permitted to stand closer than six feet apart for huddles after matches. During practice, they split up onto two courts and they are not allowed to interact until after the practice. It works out to be eight players on one court and six on the other with two coaches per court.
The softball team has also implemented a myriad of new rules regarding their fall season, beginning on Sept. 15. There will be limited players allowed on the field at once, face masks worn at all times, no sharing batting tees, no sharing plates and, like the baseball team, there will be designated areas for their equipment separated by position. The baseball team has reported that they will have a check-in and check-out sheet the players must fill out when arriving and departing practice that asks if a player is showing symptoms of COVID-19. They are also adding specific locations to stand when waiting to hit in the batting cages to maintain social distancing regulations.
The LC weight room has also been facing its own set of challenges since every sports team is in an off-season. Angela Dendas-Pleasant, the head strength and conditioning coach at LC, has managed to get each of the sports teams their own time slot for the weight room. Before entering, a student-worker behind plexiglass takes down every student’s name and ID number in order to keep track of who is entering and the number of people in the gym at all times. The weight room also has a new set of precautions for the fall: six-feet of social distancing, hand-sanitizing before and after touching a weight, having a maximum of two people at each squat-rack, sanitizing barbells and med-balls after every use and, of course, wearing a face mask at all times.
Student-athletes are also not permitted to use any sports facilities unless they check in with the medical app “Sway.” This daily check-in is required by the NCAA and provides an easy way for LC athletic trainers to minimize the risk of possible coronavirus contraction.
“Athletes receive a daily push notification to input symptoms and record their temperature to identify possible cases before coming on campus.”
If “yes” is answered for any question, the student-athlete will be flagged and unable to use any LC facilities until a health expert on campus attends to them. With so many other colleges shutting down athletics or even in-person education, the athletic department at LC is working tirelessly to make sure sports can still go on in a practical yet safe manner.