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College Athletic Departments Face Upcoming Safety Challenges

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A player runs across the NCAA logo during practice in Pittsburgh before an NCAA tournament basketball game in 2012. Photo: Keith Srakocic / Associated Press

By Jamie Kootz, Ed.D. |

“Blood, sweat, and tears” is a concept of literal and figurative context. College athletes train hard to compete at a very high level, and that hard work doesn’t come without a cost. Athletes sweat and may even shed tears or blood as a result of the hard work and play of their sport. Without a doubt, those bodily fluids pose a challenge this upcoming fall when play continues.  

Colleges now face the challenge of how to protect athletes, coaches, and athletic trainers from further spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Daily use of water bottles, towels, and even physical contact, it has athletic directors perplexed on how sports can safely be done this fall. With a feared potential second wave of the pandemic, athletic directors must think fast to get the sports we all love back into action.  

Athletic directors, trainers, and coaches are all brainstorming ways to safely have practice and competitions, all while protecting everyone involved. The thoughts have been to encourage athletes use personal water bottles, give each athlete a towel to wipe down all surfaces and their body with during play. Another idea is to provide all athletes a mesh bag to place practice gear and towels in each day following practice or games to be washed daily. All school personnel must take careful measures with personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks while handling the mesh bags when laundering and returning to the athletes. Some other thoughts have been to use disposable cups during practices and games as well as have athletes provide and wash their own towels and athletic gear. However, considering the daily laundering and the delicacy of some athletic jerseys and equipment, it could place a high financial burden on both athletes and the college.  

Athletes and colleges are already facing economic challenges during this pandemic and having to determine the best method for the safety of the athletes is overwhelming. While there is not a perfect answer, athletic directors, trainers, coaches, and athletes should unite together to determine what is best for their school. Remember, it is about the individual school’s safety for their athletes, staff, and fans.  

Dr. Jamie Kootz is a master’s (2010) and doctoral (2016) graduate from The United States Sports Academy. She is now a Director of Graduate Education and Instructional Technology at Kansas Wesleyan University. Jamie teaches both in the classroom and online to promote others to learn more about sports, fitness, and health. 

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