Preparing for the future COVID-19 landscape
Due to COVID-19 there are still many unanswered questions regarding the outlook of sports in the future. Currently, government officials are developing and implementing safety protocols and procedures so states can begin to return to normal operations safely. In the world of intercollegiate athletics, national and conference affiliates are also busy planning for how college and university athletic departments will operate safely, while COVID-19 is still a concern.
Information is now being gathered and conversations are being held by athletic administrators across the country regarding how the NCAA should contend with and move sports forward in the presence of the pandemic.All or some of the following contingencies will most likely be utilized in some form or another during the upcoming months and year:
- Holding competitions as scheduled, however, contests would occur without fans in the stands
- Delaying the start of the fall sports season to later in the calendar year
- Shortening sport seasons
- Eliminating contests
- Reducing individual or team postseason championship qualifying opportunities
- Reducing neutral championship sites
- Eliminating postseason conference tournaments that determine the automatic bid to NCAA postseason play and
- Canceling selected sports seasons
As we anticipate the NCAA issuing new guidelines on how sports will be conducted in a COVID-19 landscape, it is also crucial for athletic directors to begin preparing now for the unknowns. Planning and implementing a multi-prong strategic approach to ensure the health and safety of the student-athletes, coaches, officials, and fans, while they are on campus during this unprecedented time will be of the utmost importance.
One of the most significant strategic prongs should include updating or developing campus operational procedures. The following is a list of areas where safeguard additions, including but not limited to social distancing and the use of face masks must be taken into consideration when planning for the next sport season:
- Sportsmanship etiquette
- Practice protocols
- Weight room rules
- Athletic training room procedures
- Locker room management
- Study hall rules
- Team travel management
- Spectator seating
- Parking/tailgating arrangements
Another prong should include some type of daily clearance procedure before the student-athlete can participate in sport activities. Lastly, and one of the most important prongs is to implement a COVID-19 educational awareness program, which includes but is not limited to student-athlete and coach safety/hygiene training and procedures, health and safety venue signage, etc.
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The adoption of these and other safeguards will be essential to the health and safety of the student-athletes, coaches, officials, and fans while they are on your campus.
In closing, the pandemic has pushed the sports world into uncharted territory, and pending the circumstances of the time, those sports administrators who are now preparing for the future will be ready for whatever COVID-19 has in store for us.
Author, Tom Gioglio, ED.D., currently completing his 22nd year as a Director of Athletics and 5th year as the Director of Athletics at Lock Haven University