Katherine Mersiotis/ The Bates Student
In a surprise decision, the Bates Athletic Department decided to suspend afternoon practices last Friday. According to an email sent to coaches around noon, there was no reason specified for the suspension other than a general violation of Bates’ public health guidelines. No information was provided at the time as to which team or individual violated the guidelines or in which manner they were violated.
Athletic Director Jason Fein was able to provide a much clearer explanation as to why practice was suspended, stating, “In a nutshell, we canceled practice on Friday, and Friday only, so that we could discuss how to ensure that we were keeping in compliance with our institutional guidelines at practice.”
Fein continued, “We had several unconfirmed reports of some folks not following our public health policies while at practice. We have regrouped with the coaching staff and made sure we are all on the same page about expectations going forward.”
Fein wrapped up his explanation of the suspension by adding, “Practices resumed on Saturday and we don’t expect further interruptions,” which surely caused every student-athlete and coach to let out a sigh of relief.
The fact that practices will be able to continue as normal is welcome news to not just athletes, but every member of the community. Every piece of information or news that concerns COVID-19 is of utmost importance to many on campus, and thankfully, there is little reason to be concerned regarding the safety of athletic practices on campus.
For student-athletes, losing the ability to continue pursuing their athletic endeavors is a major concern. Athletics is in a high risk category in terms of possible transmission, but the athletic department has been working extremely hard to ensure that athletics can happen in some capacity without endangering student-athletes or the greater community.
However, this is not to say that there will be no changes to the current guidelines for athletics. According to Fein, “We expect that members of the athletic training staff and/or administrative team will continue to drop by practice, not only to monitor compliance, but to continue to check in on the best part of what we all do — participate in athletics.”
In discussing the future of the health protocols set out for athletics, Fein was sure to note that, “I believe we have taken appropriate action to help us avoid further disruptions. In addition, if you or your fellow student-athletes witness areas in which we are falling short, I encourage you to address those directly with your coaches and/or the athletics administrative team.”
Flexibility is critical in challenging situations like athletic practices during a pandemic, and while the Bates Athletic Department’s policies have worked perfectly so far this semester, that is not to say that they can not be modified in order to adjust to unforeseen changes.
Adding to the positive news, Fein and Assistant Athletic Director Celine Cunningham noted, respectively, how “encouraged” and “impressed” they have been with student-athletes following the health protocols.
“It has been inspiring to make the rounds at practice over these past few weeks, or to see student-athletes running around campus, and see how many of them are excited to be able to be out there engaging with their teams,” said Fein.
Barring any major shifts in the number of cases at Bates, it appears that athletics at Bates, like many other aspects of student life, will continue to forge ahead. Cooperation from students and transparency from administrators, like what was put on display following the suspension of practices, will be critical going forward in creating a life at Bates with some sense of normalcy.