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Freeman Cebu Sports

Student athletes can resume training?

BLEACHER TALK - Rico S. Navarro - The Freeman

Here we go again. The headline of a news story blares, “IATF: Student-athletes can resume training.” As soon as this is posted in Facebook, it generates 340 comments and 6,900 shares. That’s a great reach for a news story, but also one that most likely sowed more confusion than certainty. If you read through the comments about the post, it’s a mix of confusion, questions and calls for clarity. That was another example of a misleading headline.

Again, one needs to go through the details of the presscon announcement before assuming anything. While it’s true that the IATF has given the go signal for student-athletes to resume training, it’s more important to clarify that this will require very strict health and safety protocols. IATF Resolution Number 68 dated September 30, 2020 sates, “Student athletes of collegiate associations as defined under Republic Act 10676 or Student Athletes Protection Act shall be allowed to resume their preparatory trainings in areas under General Community Quarantine (CCQ) and Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), subject to guidelines as may be issued by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).”

A technical working group (TWG) was formed by the CHED to formulate a battle plan for such a scenario. And yes, it’s going to be one tough battle should schools go ahead and follow the guidelines. The TWG did a good job and came out with a comprehensive program for the resumption of practice. If I were to summarize the document that has been shared on social media, practice for college teams is allowed to resume provided that this be done in a bubble set-up, i.e. “stay-in training.” A major consideration is that the student-athletes practice on campus, and live in dormitories on campus or nearby.

The document states, “A training may be considered as ‘stay-in’ if the athletes, coaches and other personnel essential and necessary for the conduct of training process are actually training and staying in a common athletes’ dormitory or housing facility which are both located in the same campus of a college, university or higher education institution (HEI); Provided that such athletes, coaches and relevant personnel shall not be allowed to go out of such training facility or common athlete’s dormitory or housing facility during the period of the training season.” That sure looks like a bubble to me not only for student-athletes but also for coaches and members of the training staff, doesn’t it?

There is an “exemption” of sorts if the dorm or housing facility is located outside the campus. This is possible provided that the vehicle that will service them is solely dedicated to them. Moreover, HEIs with dorms that are adjacent and not on campus “can still be considered as engaging in stay-in training, provided that appropriate engineering and administrative controls are employed so that student-athletes are physically separated from the general population,” the document adds. Now this is a more challenging task. How do you physically separate student-athletes in training from the general public if they live in dorms off-campus? Given the urban set-up of dorms off-campus, is this possible?

The document goes on in detail that “HEIs shall administer appropriate engineering and administrative controls as provided by DOH AO No. 2020-0015.” These include “monitoring of symptoms, placement of handwashing facilities and sanitizers, social distancing, wearing of face masks, and routine disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and equipment for areas or setting or facilities that will be used for physical activities.” Other crucial elements of the program include testing for all, isolation for student-athletes and coaches who move in to dorms from the outside, and that all student-athletes between eighteen and twenty-one years old shall be obliged to ask their parents or guardian for consent. Those below eighteen shall be only allowed to participate in virtual training. It also goes on to suggest a personnel set-up that includes a health officer and a team led by the Athletic Director to assure that all government and IATF guidelines are followed. Documents will be required (lots of it), making the task even more toxic, but necessary.

I’ll admit it. After reading through the document, I gave up and concluded that the chances of Cebu universities implementing this are slim. As expected, the schools that will go for this will be the Manila schools with unli resources. I wouldn’t be surprised if the UAAP or NCAA even propose for the staging of games also in a bubble soon after they start their respective bubble practices.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree with every single detail of it because it’s for the safety of all. But a school will need the resources to implement such a comprehensive program. Will schools step up and spend for all these guidelines? Will Gary Cortes, Mike Reyes, Kern Sesante and Grace Antigua and their staff leave their families to stay with their student-athletes for an indefinite period of time? Can we assure that those who live in dorms or quarters off-campus don’t get in contact with the general public? Do we even have dorms located on campus in any of our CESAFI schools? I’m afraid there are more questions than answers.

We’re better off having our college student-athletes focus on their studies first. How to stay in shape? They continue training online, go outdoors to run or bike, hit the weights room/gym and find a way to get some private practice done at home or at a private gym, but practicing health and safety protocols.

All shall pass. Let’s be more patient, be creative with our fitness programs, and pray harder.

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