Saddleback athletics and the fight against COVID-19

Saddleback baseball player getting ready for a team meeting (Photo/Tucker Wagoner)

Masks, weekly COVID tests and heightened social distancing are what it takes for players to remain safe in their first full season back in action. Those participating in sportswear masks like the rest of the student population, however, players are required to get tested twice a week. 

COVID-19 put the world on hold for months. To a student-athlete, this meant lost time to showcase their skills to achieve their goals. In 2020, programs across the nation were forced to cancel not only practices but play limited, if any, games to remain safe. 

Saddleback itself has already had the chance to experience this new style as they are now a couple of weeks into the season of fall sports. Saddleback football’s second game against Mt. San Antonio was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the opponent’s school. 

Even though none of the Saddleback students tested positive, they now lose their bye week. The pandemic has already played into the Bobcats’ scheduling, taking away their bye week, a week where players are able to rest and reset. 

Head football coach Kerry Crabb was able to comment on the situation from week two.

“I think if you go into this season not expecting to have one or at least two games interrupted, then you’re not being realistic,” Crabb said. “There’s only so many things that we can control, however, there are just as many things that we can’t. We can’t control the other team’s exposure.” 

Safety is the goal of everyone participating in sports this year. With strict regulations, players are still taking the risk to pursue athletic achievement at a collegiate level. 

The guidelines that not only Saddleback, but all schools in California have been abiding by come from the California Community College Athletic Association. The association oversees the athletic programs of all public schools in California. 

The guidelines are as follows: 

  • Masks must be worn indoors at all times.
  • Players, coaches and officials are to be tested twice a week.
  • Games canceled due to COVID-19 can be rescheduled unless both parties have an outbreak (In this case, the result is “no contest”).
  • If a team refuses to travel to an opponent’s facility because their requirements are stricter than the CCCAA minimum, they must forfeit.

Interim executive director of the CCCAA, Jennifer Cardone, was able to shed light on the decision-making process for California’s requirements. 

“Our Covid-19 Working Group (WG), which was established at the start of the pandemic to help work through the many issues brought about by the crisis, have been meeting regularly to discuss anything and everything related to the pandemic and the CCCAA,” Cardone said. “The WG is composed of administrators, coaches, CCCAA staff and athletic department staff, as well as the president of the athletic trainers association who has been an indispensable resource in helping guide our health and safety discussions and decisions.”

Another topic that came up in the interview was required vaccinations. Cardone gave her insight as to where we are with required vaccinations. 

“At this time, that is a decision in the hands of the schools and districts,” Cardone said. “It affects the entire student population of which student-athletes are members.” 

Those who oversee the safety of players have seen an increased workload going into this year. Not only are they responsible for organizing and maintaining a successful season, they now must add COVID-19 protocols to their tasks. 

Some of these extra safety measures can range from taking extra buses to utilizing larger meeting rooms to ensure social distancing.

Dean of Kinesiology and Athletics Dan Clauss was able to comment on the extra steps athletic staff has had to take with the new normal.

“It’s been extremely difficult managing all the details that go into testing,” Clauss said. “We’ve been able to keep it safe and keep it moving forward.” 

For players, coaches and athletic staff, it has taken a team effort to continue giving these student-athletes a chance at pursuing their goals.