By Veronica Craker, PLU Marketing & Communications
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, PLU student-athletes have returned to play. In December, the Northwest Conference Presidents’ Council announced competition could resume as long as federal, state, local and NCAA health directives permitted. Since then, PLU Athletics has initiated a COVID-19 testing strategy designed to ensure the health and safety of athletes and coaching staff.
Initial requirements as set forth by the NCAA required 25 percent of athletes to be tested weekly for high-risk sports and every two weeks for low risk. However, the Lutes strategy has taken it a step further and implemented testing for all student-athletes.
Testing around 450 students weekly is not an easy task. Fortunately for PLU, coaches volunteered to proctor the self-administered COVID-19 tests. Whereas many schools rely on their health centers and training staff to administer tests, PLU Athletics has taken it upon itself to manage the process.
“That is something that is unique,” Jen Thomas, interim athletic director, said. “Having our coaches do that … there’s a lot of positives in doing it that way and it should be celebrated.”
Teamwork is nothing new for Lutes, but now that attitude spreads across individual sports.
After seeing their spring season end abruptly, the athletics department chose to zero in on that aspect in order to move forward and gain the opportunity to play again.
“Sports is such a huge part of the athletes’ identity,” Thomas said. “When they returned to campus this fall they really exhibited a sense of gratitude for being able to participate in their sport. When everything was shut down suddenly it was done. You were not a softball player, you were not a track athlete. So, when our teams did come back it was really with a renewed sense of appreciation for being able to participate in their sport.”
Upon returning to campus each student-athlete received a shirt that read: “Together we will.”
The motto was chosen to convey a culture that encourages every student-athlete to do their part to keep one another healthy and able to play. This includes wearing masks, practicing social distancing and coordinating bus seats and roommates to limit exposure.
“I really think the PLU athletes have done an exceptional job this year to take as many precautions as possible this year to be able to practice and compete in their sport,” Thomas said.
The first game since the pandemic started took place in January with the women’s and men’s basketball team playing Whitman College. Since then men’s volleyball, football, soccer and swimming have all had a chance to play. Fans are not allowed to attend games as of yet, but most events can be viewed via livestream .
The post PLU Athletics returns to action with new COVID-19 testing protocols was first publishing on the Pacific Lutheran University website.