As universities across the country face the challenge of reopening campuses and allowing student-athletes to safely return for training, Georgia Tech is working on a three-part phase to bringing back normalcy.
Following the NCAA's approval to allow student-athletes to participate in voluntary athletic activities beginning June 1, Georgia Tech athletics announced on Thursday its' plans to reopen facilities on June 15.
The reopening will be restricted to weight rooms and training facilities - voluntary basis only. Freshmen will also not be allowed to participate in activities.
On Friday, Georgia Tech AD Todd Stansbury spoke with media regarding the different protocols the institute will follow in order to create a safe environment for its student-athletes and staff.
"All of our activities will have to be scheduled, proper intervals, social distancing, are able to clean our facilities in between sessions," said Stansbury. "We are in the process right now identifying how many student-athletes we will have in Phase I. So much of this will have to be monitored, but there is a lot of management that has to go into this as far facilities and oversight as well."
According to Stansbury, Phase I will pertain to student-athletes in the Atlanta area only due to the unavailability of housing on campus.
Testing is part of the protocol and it will be done beforehand.
"There is an intake process, as far as questionnaire, testing and so forth prior to return," added Stansbury. "We need to have our isolation and quarantine protocols in place and ready to go just in case we end up with a positive test. We are basically following the guidance of our medical professionals and public health officials on how are we going to do that, what are we going to need as far as space, and those type of things."
With the CDC in Atlanta as well, Stansbury stated there are many additional advantages Georgia Tech has in being one of the first schools to test out the waters.
"I think we have a lot of advantages at Georgia Tech because not only of the expertise we have on our campus, our experts are the same ones that are fighting COVID-19 internationally," said Stansbury. "So having access to that expertise, as well as our relationship and our partnership with Emory, has provided us with a lot of great resources. So as we've been going through this process, we have two task forces that is coming up with: how do we provide a safe environment, and keep our student-athletes and staff safe as they return to campus? And the other one is looking at, what do events look like, and how are we going to create a safe environment going into the future?"
Student-athletes will be monitored by strength and conditioning staff and trainers, which is typical protocol to ensure safety.
"The workouts will end up being pretty similar to what we would do in a normal summer, where you have voluntary workouts," Stansbury said. "The requirements of the NCAA are obviously in effect. The major difference is going to be the regimented timing and the social distancing. Obviously, we're only going to have a certain amount based on space. A certain number of student-athletes can work out at a certain time. So it's going to be much more scheduled and monitored."
The June timeframe will begin one of three phases that Georgia Tech will go through in taking steps in moving forward.
"Phase II of course at this point, we don't have necessarily have a timeline yet. Phase two would be more focused on getting those fall student-athletes back as would be normal under normal circumstances to start with whatever team activities would be approved at the time. We're in the process in this three phase approach, we want to crawl before we walk, and we want to walk before run. As we start to go through the phases it'll be much more focused on getting those student-athletes for their preseasons.
"The third phase would be really getting back to team activities in preseason, and being able to manage that. Keep it safe. Make sure you're in a position to have a safe preseason but ultimately to get your team ready to play."
Returning international students will be another concern and a hurdle universities will face. With the current closed borders and closed embassies overseas, Stansbury said Georgia Tech will be watching things closely.
Although there will be many other obstacles, Stansbury is aiming for a return of sports on the planned schedule.
"The idea of getting our student-athletes back, as soon as we can, and starting phasing them in a safe environment, it is a priority knowing the runway necessary just to get back into competition type shape," said Stansbury. "We're anticipating best case scenario that we'll be able to open up as scheduled."
Stansbury is hopeful that Georgia Tech can set the lead way for schools across the country to reopen their campuses as well.
"We have a great not only opportunity, but responsibility in showing how students can come back to campus," said Stansbury. "I see our phases as also a roadmap on how the campus can eventually get back to full strength as well. We can get our arms around our kids, and they're used to being coached, and they know how important it is that we get this right. I think this is a great opportunity for athletics, not only at Georgia Tech, but since this is happening across the country, really to help institutions develop their plans on how they're going to bring all their students back."
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