It’s nowhere near normalcy, but some Gonzaga men’s and women’s basketball players took the first baby steps in that direction last week by participating in voluntary workouts.
The NCAA announced last month that voluntary workouts for basketball and football could begin June 1, but the actual timeline has varied across the country with schools adhering to state and regional guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Gonzaga worked with university officials and the Spokane Regional Heath District to establish protocols that first and foremost addressed the safety of student-athletes and the training staff, athletic director Mike Roth said.
Several schools, including Houston, Clemson and Alabama, reportedly have had multiple athletes test positive. Gonzaga is moving ahead slowly in hopes of avoiding setbacks.
“We started the middle of last week with a limited number, primarily just strength and conditioning. Our coaches can’t be with their student-athletes at this time,” Roth said. “We did get approval from Spokane Regional Health. We did a complete walk-through with them. They’ve been really good for our staff to work with.
“Right now it’s just voluntary workouts, which means the student-athlete has to initiate it, and they can work out with their strength and conditioning coaches and trainers.”
Gonzaga has a limited number of men’s and women’s players on campus. The athletes involved in voluntary workouts weren’t tested for coronavirus, under the guidance of Spokane Regional Health, but they – and the training staff – have their temperature taken and follow several monitoring guidelines. Roth said testing would come into play if someone experiences symptoms.
“We do full screening every day,” Roth said. “It’s a small amount of staff and we’re trying to limit the number of people involved. Temperature checks is the primary thing, but we’re also monitoring for the visible signs and asking questions of the student-athletes. So far, everything seems to be working.”
Spokane is in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase recovery plan. Phase 3 doesn’t appear to be imminent with the number of cases rising since Memorial Day.
Roth said as many as five players can workout at the same time in Phase 2. Athletes are required to maintain social distancing, and equipment is cleaned frequently.
The number of basketball players should grow this week with incoming freshmen, including Dominick Harris, Julian Strawther and Jalen Suggs, and possibly some returners arriving on campus for the second session of summer classes.
Roth anticipates players returning to the court in Phase 3 but wasn’t sure if that would mean 2-on-2 and/or scrimmage sessions.
“One positive thing is our student-athletes thus far continue to buy in to all the different protocols,” Roth said. “They wear masks when they’re not working out. They come in one door and go out the other. They’re using specific equipment. They understand the importance of it from the standpoint that if we don’t follow these things and we end up with some positive tests, they’re not going to get to work out.”
Protocols are still being finalized for fall sports, Roth said. Gonzaga soccer, cross country and volleyball typically have season openers in mid-to-late August, but their schedules haven’t been announced for the upcoming season.
“We’re still moving ahead like soccer and volleyball are going to start on time,” Roth said, “but we also know that can change, and nobody wants to get too far over their skis.”