Park athletes navigate daily challenges of COVID-19 precautions

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Natalya Nalivaiko, Reporter

Being a student athlete has always presented challenges. However, amidst a pandemic, these challenges have multiplied. Now coaches and athletes have to worry about keeping everyone safe and healthy, regularly testing for COVID-19 and following new public health rules, all while attempting to play their sport as normally as possible.

Women’s basketball point guard and sophomore biology major Emylin Richardson said that the daily processes of practice have changed due to COVID-19.

“It’s difficult in practice because we have to wear masks all the time,” Richardson said. “It’s kind of harder for us to breathe because we’re not used to wearing a mask.”

Richardson went on to explain that those procedures can vary between practice and games though. For example, she said that during live play, masks are not required unless a player chooses to wear one.

Hiago Crins, a senior right side hitter on the men’s volleyball team and a fitness and wellness major, said that masks are worn at all times during practice, everyone has separate water bottles and spaces, and the players sanitize their hands periodically during practice.

The biggest change that Crins has seen in volleyball due to COVID-19 is the lack of fans.

“We don’t have crowds here in our games,” said Crins. “They took this decision because of our safety, but of course we miss the crowd, and I personally can say that their energy in the games makes a difference.”

Richardson and Crins are two athletes that risk extra exposure to COVID-19 by playing their sports. They said they accept this fact and understand this risk.

“It’s one of those things that’s probably bound to happen,” Richardson said.

This semester, the women’s basketball played a home game against a team that had been tested for COVID-19 but did not have the results before stepping into Park’s gym for their game.

“During the middle of the game, the coach got a call and was like, ‘yeah you have a player that tested positive,’ and she was playing already,” said Richardson. “You just never know what schools are doing because we know what we’re doing, so we feel safe, but we don’t know what the other schools are doing and that was a prime example of that.”

Despite this close call, the players were not exposed to this specific player for more than 15 minutes and were shown support by their coaches and the school, allowing them to choose if they wanted to continue with practice after being exposed.

“I know I am at risk and anytime I can get it,” said Crins. However, both athletes feel like they are doing what they can to keep their sport alive and fun amid a troubling time.

To ensure the safety of Park’s student athletes, the men’s volleyball team will be getting tested every week for free.

“They are all caring about safety and this is the most important thing, so they are doing the best of their job to keep us healthy and at the same time keep with playing,” said Crins in reference to the school and athletics.

On the other hand, the women’s basketball team has not been given the same opportunity in regards to testing, according to Richardson.

Richardson said, “We’re always exposed every day. It helps instead of having to wait until we get exposed. I think it should just be a new thing to get tested before every game.”

“This is a real thing, take care of yourself, use masks out there,” encourages Crins.

Speaking directly to the fans and the “people that love and appreciate volleyball,” Hiago says to follow Park Athletics on social media to see game results, as well as watch games for free on the Park Athletics website.

During the challenges of COVID-19, it is important to have lots of support for these athletes. Crins adds, “Since there is no crowd here you just need to go online and keep sending us energy.”Senior right side hitter on men's volleyball and fitness and wellness major