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Spring sports to compete in-person

Following the Midwest Conference’s (MWC) announcement regarding the resumption of spring sports, the Lawrence Vikings will compete in baseball, softball and track and field in the spring sports’ season, while men’s and women’s tennis will not compete this season due to many student-athletes being away from campus. 

According to MWC’s announcement on Feb. 19, competitions will be resumed in the upcoming months while monitoring the COVID-19 environment on MWC campuses, local communities and at the regional and national levels. Member institutions, based upon campus and local realities of the pandemic, retain ultimate authority over the decision to participate in intercollegiate athletics this spring. 

As the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Sports Science Institute (SSI) recommended, once COVID-19 infection rates diminish for at least two weeks, collegiate sports’ resocialization may be possible under numerous core principles. The principles require universities and colleges to develop and implement appropriate policies regarding social-distancing and protective equipment, temperature checks, testing and isolating, sanitation, use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas and school business travel, as well as contact tracing, monitoring symptoms in the workforce and other factors. More information is available by following the QR code. https://www.ncaa.org/sport-science-institute/core-principles-resocialization-collegiate-sport . 

Following the guidelines established by SSI, all proposed policies and procedures have been reviewed and approved by the MWC Presidents’ Council, said Lawrence University Director of Athletics Kim Tatro. In addition, according to Kathy Privatt, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and Faculty Athletic Representative of Lawrence University at MWC, the COVID-19 Working Group also considered guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and various regional health departments and campuses. 

The regulations regarding COVID-19 safety protocol are still being reviewed and will be completed prior to any MWC competition, Tatro said. Expected requirements would likely include additional testing protocols, social-distancing and masking while traveling, reduced numbers of competitions, divisional or regional games only and restricted overnight travel, according to Tatro. 

While these increased regulations are in the process of finalization, some student-athletes, such as sophomore Jordan Schaefer of the baseball team, expressed his thought on the early stages. Schaefer was initially concerned and skeptical about how COVID-19 and protocols may be handled by both the school and the athletic department. However, Schaefer now feels entirely comfortable with the outlook of spring sports. He believes the implemented protocols, particularly restricted overnight travel, limited bus occupancy and additional COVID-19 testing, are sufficient to protect student-athletes’ well-being on his team and elsewhere. 

“The feelings I have heading into this season are pure relief and excitement,” Schaefer said. “I am overjoyed to be able to play my sport this upcoming season.” 

Freshman Jojo Desir of the track and field team also shared her concerns. She feels the meets will be relatively safe given that the meetings are held outdoors. Additionally, people rarely get physically near each other during track and field competitions, at least not for longer than a few seconds during shorter races, Desir said.  

On the other hand, Desir is concerned about whether the regulations will allow spectators at the meets, which she worries might add to the risk considerably. Desir believes that, unlike college athletes, spectators who do not attend any college don’t have to follow as many COVID-19 restrictions in their everyday lives and might unintentionally expose others to the virus.  

Desir feels she will be somewhat comfortable with spectators attending, as long as masks and social-distancing are required. She acknowledges that missing out on providing the in-person support of watching someone could be difficult. However, Desir believes it is crucial to see how the safety at the competitions turns out with athletes only since it might be a new factor of risk to spread COVID-19.  

Based on an anonymous survey of 73 student-athletes regarding the spring sports’ announcement, 93.3 percent said they are strongly looking forward to the upcoming season and 72.5 percent expressed confidence about the safety of spring competition.  

Jason Fast, Assistant Director of Athletics and Head Coach of Track and Field, expressed his excitement for the upcoming sports season. The track and field team wears masks and social-distances at practices and conducts team meetings via a virtual platform, Fast said. The team also practices in smaller pods and stays outside as much as possible, despite being an indoor sport during the winter. The only pod that is inside all the time is the one composed of throwers.

“I feel great. This team has worked hard over the last 365 days, and they are ready to compete,” Fast said. “As far as the safety of the student-athletes and the greater Lawrence University community, I feel our administration has done their due diligence and taken the necessary steps to keep all parties as healthy and safe as possible.” 

Tatro looks forward to watching Viking student-athletes strive in the spring sports’ competitions with great joy and optimism. 

“The significance is that our spring sport athletes won’t lose a second season of competition.  Being involved in athletics is truly a part of who they are.” Tatro said. “Our goal has always been to return to sports in ways that protect the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff.”