Return to campus too soon for one athlete

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As we push through the end of 2020, athletic departments across the state have faced big turnarounds in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, leaving well-versed student-athletes limited to only remote training through Zoom calls with other students and coaches.

Delta College, like schools across the country, has been preparing for a Spring 2021 sports season filled with all sports after the California Community College Athletics Association delayed Fall-starting sports into next year. 

After months of preparing and review, athletes were allowed to return to campus in mid-November, only to have the privilege revoked less than two weeks later as San Joaquin County moved back into the purple tier, indicating “substantive” spread of COVID-19.

With our brief return on Oct. 9, San Joaquin County had successfully moved into the red tier allowing sports teams to condition on campus within small groups, according to the SJC Joint Information Center.

With the updated news, coaches and staff in the athletic department had to conjure up a return-to-campus process that had to go through approval by the county.

While waiting on the green light for practice, the update we received a majority of time was an email or text message saying practice on campus was pending approval from San Joaquin County.

Before official face-to-face practice began, all athletes were sent a detailed video explaining the process of what we were going to be dealing with in regards to our return process.

For the return process to begin, all athletes were given a pod number with up to six members that we arrive with, walk into practice with, and leave practice with, all within the pod’s given timeframe, in order to limit the possible exposure to COVID-19. 

“We are continuing to follow the COVID guidelines provided by the state…the return plan was always in place, we just had to wait for the conditions to improve in our area and that didn’t happen until mid-semester,” said Tony Espinoza, Delta College’s athletic director.

When Nov. 10 rolled around and the first day of practice had arrived, so did the first-day jitters.

Before practice had begun we were socially distanced in a circle, and provided instructions by our coach on his expectations for us, while reminded of the rules of social distancing from one another regardless if we were family members or not.

As practice ran, all the athletes were excited to be back in person again, but as a student-athlete it felt as if we shouldn’t have been there together just yet, because of the constant updates of the nonstop climbing COVID-19 cases.

My biggest concern about practicing in person was: can a small group of young adults carry out the rules pertaining to COVID-19 regulations? 

It’s sad to say it appeared impossible, because of how hard it is to use proper breath control and practice while wearing a mask.

As athletes, breath control is an important factor in regulating the energy we need to exercise according to Runner’s World, a monthly online magazine for runners of different skill levels.

Practicing in the groups felt claustrophobic when, in reality, it should’ve felt the opposite. There were some questioning actions that occurred looking upon how the athletes gathered themselves according to the COVID-19 rules. 

Masks were worn for the first 30 minutes to an hour, and disappeared when it was time for our workout for the day. They made it seem like social distancing wasn’t even heard of.

You would think student-athletes would take something like a pandemic more seriously if they wanted anything to go back to normal faster. 

Going off to a four-year college and competing should have been their motivation to adjust to the particular rules of social distancing and staying safe.Yet somehow it didn’t work, making remote workouts from home look real good.

For about a week and a half we experienced what life on campus would have been like on the athletic side before we had to close back down due to the county moving back into the purple tier along with another stay at home order.

Continuing a sports season was going to be hard, the athletes and coaches knew that. Walking into the unknown with uncertainties about the upcoming year isn’t the ideal situation anyone had coming back in the game.

But we should not have returned so soon. I do not believe that risking our health for sports during a pandemic was addressed appropriately, and it should not have been attempted. 

The major concern should have been planning out the spring 2021 season with athletes conditioning and training from home.