COVID Regulations Becoming New Norm at Marist Facilities

As of September 19th, 2020, the doors to the McCann Center have been open. In order to arrive at this momentous occasion, a great deal of safety measures and protocols had to be carefully thought out and considered.

Marist’s Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Aaron Suma believes that there are far more positive effects than there are negatives from the regulations being enforced. He believes they have, “managed pretty well over the last couple of weeks,” given that there are a handful of new procedures and routines that everyone needs to get accustomed to.

Suma discussed the ups and downs of team training sessions in the weightroom amidst a pandemic. 

“We assume that 95 percent or more of the kids were not able to have access to traditional gym equipment over the last six months,” Suma said. “So, we are not starting from where we would have left off six months ago, we are starting from the beginning, and taking it very slowly.”

When the pandemic hit, student athletes were stripped of their gym access without warning. For most, the gym is a second home. Suma noticed that the student athletes seemed to undergo a change of attitude since being allowed back in the weight room. 

“When I tell the athletes that they need to clean everything after they are done, and put things back in the right place, they are paying more attention to the details than ever,” Suma said. “General gym hygiene has been great since we started, and we should probably continue this long after COVID is gone.” 

Gym hygiene certainly has always been a thought, though now it is a priority. Student athletes now know how it feels to be prohibited from utilizing top facilities, and never want to experience that feeling ever again. They understand that maintaining a clean weight room is now more important than ever before. It only takes one careless person to jeopardize gym privileges for all student athletes. 

“We have cleaning procedures,” Suma explained. “They start at forty-five minutes after when the team leaves the weight room. It lets the air settle and recirculate. We come in, use the electrostatic sprayer and spray down all of the equipment that was touched during the session.

“The new team comes in at the top of the hour, and they work out for forty minutes. At forty minutes after, they take a spray bottle and a clean rag, and they clean down everything that they’ve touched,” Suma continued to explain. “And then we repeat the process with the electrostatic sprayer, just to kind of double down on anything that might have been missed.”

On top of the cleaning process, there are the normal requirements. All athletes are required to wear a face mask at all times, maintain a proper social distance of six feet apart, and they must sanitize their hands upon entering and exiting the gym. 

It’s important to note that there is a limited number of athletes permitted in the gym at one time. The most allowed in at once is 20. Most teams have to split into two separate groups in order to abide by this rule, aside from football who has to split into several groups due to their large roster size.

“We obviously would like to get more people in the weight room at one time, just because we have the space,” Suma said. “But we definitely understand given the current guidelines.”

While teams may be unhappy about having to divide, Suma was able to see the bright side of the situation. 

“The more athletes we have in at a time, the less individual attention I am able to pay to each athlete, just because I am only one set of eyes,” Suma said. “But now that we are at a limited capacity in there, everyone gets a lot more individual attention and coaching than they possibly would.”

Given that Suma must coach from a safe social distance of six-feet at all times, his methods have had to slightly change. 

“One thing I’ve really picked up on and am improving daily with, and getting better at is non-verbal cueing,” Suma explained. “So, rather than getting up close and talking to an athlete, I’ll use my hand gestures.” 

Suma believes that the athletes, “seem to be picking up on it very well,” which ensures that they are still able to receive effective coaching as they prepare to get back to competition.

In the past, athletes would be paired up with their teammates in order to accommodate all team members in the gym at one time. They would essentially waste valuable time switching out weights, as well as waiting for their turn to complete the exercise.

“Everyone right now gets their own racks, and their own equipment, so it is a lot easier for them to dial in to what they need to be doing,” Suma said.

The student athletes have a heightened sense of focus now. They are able to make more of their time in the gym, as the experience is a bit more individualized than it typically has been.

Overall, it is quite evident the student athlete experience inside McCann this year has been quite different than usual. Between having a sharp focus on cleanliness, the opportunity to experience more personalized coaching, and having access to their own racks, the new normal inside McCann for the student athletes may leave a positive impact on gym utilization.

Edited by Dave Connelly & Nick Stanziale

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