Due to COVID-19, fall athletes are without a season in 2020, but recent events have Pacific athletes closer to taking the field than expected. Earlier this month, Pacific University Athletic Director Kieth Buckley announced fall athletes would be permitted to practice with their teams.
“We wanted to get student-athletes back to some level of activity as quickly and safely as possible”, said Buckley, who is in his first full year as athletic director. This comes less than a month after the announcement from the Northwest Conference that all sports activities are postponed until 2021. Buckley mentioned the different approach Pacific athletics has taken versus neighboring universities Linfield and George Fox is strictly due to statistics around the virus. “Washington county is in a different phase than Yamhill county, so we were required to be more restrictive than those schools”,said Buckley.
With these restrictions, Pacific has made different stages to define the level of interaction athletes can have while the virus is still infecting the population. Buckley listed stage zero as volunteer workouts in the field house or fitness center and stage one as the restricted practices set to take place. “Stage one is practicing with coaches, now that everyone has been cleared with athletic training, but practices are going to be limited,” said Buckley.
Among the restrictions, players will be limited to groups of 10, they will be required to wear masks, as well as maintain distancing from other players. While there could be several groups of 10 within one practice, Buckley made it clear “the groups will not cross over during the course of a workout.” In stage one, contact sports such as basketball, football, and soccer will not be allowed to have full contact in practices due to the distance restrictions.
Athletes will go through daily symptoms monitoring and temperature checks during practice to detect if anyone is carrying the virus. Buckley said the groups are a big part of virus detection. “The group of 10 helps us contact trace very quickly, ” said Buckley, adding “we’re first and foremost wanting to take care of athletes who get sick.” As of now, the athletic administration does not have an exact number of covid cases that would shut down all practices. “If we go through contact tracing and there is a large amount of people getting sick,then we will have to assess what our ability to keep going forward is.”
Buckley has continued to convey how impressed he is with the Pacific athletes saying “We have had so many changes and adaptations since last March and everybody has just gone with it and that speaks volumes to the maturity level and understanding of our student athletes.”
While some universities across the country were quick to put their athletes back into their season, Pacific Universities’ careful and calculated approach to bring athletes back with safety as the top concern, proves their focus for the health and well being of not just student-athletes, but the entire student body. — Joey Balleweg