Leadership Park is home to Lehigh's softball team. Teams can begin official practices on Sept. 7, while adhering to Lehigh's COVID-19 regulations.(Emily Hu/B&W Staff)

Student-athletes start voluntary on-campus training

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With the Patriot League’s cancellation of fall sports, Lehigh’s Athletic Department aims to maintain a safe environment in which student-athletes can train. 

 Updated regulations will give athletes the opportunity to practice individual skill and strength training voluntarily while still complying with the university’s guidelines on physical distancing, mask-wearing and testing. Full team practices have not been authorized yet.

Joe Sterrett, the dean of athletics, said official practices have yet to begin, and he does not expect them to start until Sept. 7. 

“Our plan is to have only-voluntary activity with the same required medical clearance elements that any student would have on campus going to class,” Sterrett said.  “They have to fill out their HawkWatch and get their temperature checked before they would do anything.”

Lehigh’s HawkWatch app requires each student on campus to complete a COVID-19 self-assessment daily to gain access to on-campus facilities.

The current training schedule is made up of time slots that athletes must sign up for at least a day in advance. Each time period allows students to work out and do conditioning, either individually or in a small group. 

Weight training was moved into Rauch Fieldhouse to be able to better spread out the equipment, Sterrett said. All activities can take place at Cundey Varsity House, Rauch Fieldhouse or Stabler Arena, with the exception of wrestling and swimming, which are located on the top floor of Grace Hall and Taylor Gym, respectively. Swimmers are allowed access to the training equipment in Taylor Gym during the off-hours when  it is unavailable to other students and staff.

Sophomore hurdler and sprinter Ashley Griesmeyer said her track and field teammates are in the process of learning the new safety protocols to be able to practice safely together once the Patriot League rules allow official practices to begin. For now, she said that she just has to get creative with how to stay in shape. 

“I do a lot of the (voluntary time-slot) workouts usually with one other person or by myself, so it’s more individualized with more self-accountability to do the workouts,” Griesmeyer said. “I know a lot of my friends brought bikes and little dumbbells to workout in their house and tried to do what they can while staying distanced.”

Sophomore field hockey midfielder Cece Slaughter admitted there are challenges of the limited training schedule, saying she’s not in as good shape as she would be doing a regular pre-season, since she and her teammates typically use their field for stick work. However, Slaughter said being in Bethlehem allowed her to practice more and is hoping to be able to stay in better shape. 

“I think the Athletic Department has done a really good job at working around with what the university is saying, like creating these voluntary sign ups to go to the fields,” Slaughter said. “Next week, we are able to go to the trainers and start lifting. They’ve made instructional videos on protocols and what we have to do, like sports medicine, sanitizing.”

Part of the reason for the delay in certain activities, Sterrett said, is due to the number of testing and quarantine protocols that any student must complete to come back to Lehigh, as many of the athletes are from all over the country. 

He estimates that nearly all of the first-year athletes and around 80 percent of upperclassmen athletes have arrived in Bethlehem and added that some athletes are still in the process of quarantining. In terms of additional testing, athletes will only be tested if symptoms are exhibited, and would be tested if they get to the point of being able to compete with others.

Sterrett said the Athletic Department is looking to begin more group-related activity on Sept. 28, but still requiring distancing and mask-wearing to and from the facilities, where masks would only be allowed off during physical activities. Lehigh’s current rules limit gatherings to 10 people, which the department complies with for indoor training. 

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