With club sports at the University of Richmond now able to practice within certain limitations, a ray of hope for athletes has emerged.
After several meetings organized by the University Recreation Department, UR recreation announced that club sports would be allowed to start practicing beginning on Sept. 9, in adherence to Red Phase policies explained in the Sports Club Return Phase Plan.
The Red Phase is the first phase in UR’s physical distance framework. Although it requires following strict physical distancing protocols, the Red Phase represents the strictest of the four phases as a means to eliminate the spread of COVID-19 as UR tries to adjust back to normalcy.
After discussing the risks and benefits associated with allowing sports to play amid COVID-19, UR Recreation permitted UR's club sports to resume practices with additional safety measures.
Student well-being was the main factor assessed in making the decision to allow club sports to practice, wrote Wendy Sheppard, assistant director of sports and risk management at the Weinstein Center for Recreation, in an email on Sept. 8.
“Sports clubs play such an important role in the student experience while at college," she wrote. "We reached out to the leadership for each club to determine how many of them wanted to be active this fall, and the majority of clubs wanted to find a way to make things work."
The majority, Sheppard wrote, included 21 out of the 31 eligible sports clubs. Although only 21 teams have expressed interest in playing this season, only 12 teams can start practicing at this time because of COVID-19 restrictions, she wrote.
All 12 active clubs must adhere to the guidelines laid out in the Sports Club Return Phase Plan, located posted on the University Recreation website. The plan states that teams must practice outside, with no more than 25 people, while adhering to distancing guidelines of being 6 feet apart and wearing a mask. Each team must disinfect their equipment before and after each practice as well.
There will be no competitions or matches, and traveling is prohibited, according to the Sports Club Return Phase Plan. Additionally, the plan states that teams must also keep a roster of who attended each practice session to use as a source for contact tracing.
Daniel Scherzer, senior and president of the Richmond Spidermonkeys, the men’s ultimate frisbee team, wrote that the return phase guidelines are a step in the right direction and are allowing teams to enjoy playing the sports they love.
“I am very grateful that the wellness department is letting us practice and have adapted the guidelines to make us happy," Scherzer wrote in an email on September 10. "Wendy [Sheppard] is doing her best to make us all happy, but we wish there were some things ... we didn’t have to keep in mind during practice."
Although Scherzer is very grateful for the opportunity to play, he worries that the COVID-19 guidelines put in place by UR will be limiting and will alter the way practice will be conducted.
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“Our greatest concerns are having to turn people away from practice due to capacity restrictions, as well as having to adjust our practices to maintain appropriate social distance,” Scherzer wrote.
Although clubs like the Spidermonkeys will be practicing this fall, eight club teams have decided to remain inactive this year, including men's club basketball, according to UR recreation
“The decision for club basketball to be inactive directly relates to the safety protocols and guidelines for club sports to resume," said Will Baliatico, president of the men’s club basketball team. "We decided it wasn’t possible for us to maintain social distancing and still have productive practices."
The decision was very difficult, Baliatico said, but the safety and health of every person participating were his number-one priorities.
“It is very important that everyone continues to follow the proper protocol and guidelines given to us so that we can all stay healthy and safe," Baliatico said.
Sheppard wrote UR would assess whether any changes to the guidelines for club sports need to be made throughout the semester.
"We will monitor practices and collect contact tracing information and be prepared to make any changes that are in the best interest of the campus as a whole," Sheppard wrote.
Contact sports writer Danny Sollecito at email@example.com.
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