Since the USA South Conference has decided to postpone fall sports, the Piedmont athletic staff is working to find the best ways to keep student-athletes safe and get them back on the field, court and track.
“We are in a place where we are reacting daily and weekly to new information, and then having to change our plans, protocols, and procedures based on the guidelines that they’re telling us we need to follow,” said Piedmont Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Jim Peeples. “It’s a fluid situation and we’re doing the best we can to deal with it.”
As of now, student-athletes should soon be able to participate in team practices again while following many of the same COVID-19 related policies and procedures that are imposed around campus. However, several new protocols would have to be introduced before competition could be possible.
“The way that things have been put in place right now, as it relates to competition, the sports have all been put into one of three categories,” said Peeples. “Those categories are based on the risk level that the epidemiologists for the NCAA Sports Science Institute have determined the level of risk for the coronavirus and potentially having the opportunity to catch it.”
The three categories set by the NCAA are low-risk sports–such as tennis, golf, swimming and track and field–moderate-risk sports, and high-risk sports. Moderate-risk sports, including softball and baseball, are required to do surveillance testing, meaning each week a certain percent of athletes from each roster would need to be tested for COVID-19. The majority of Piedmont sports fall into the high-risk category, which requires that all student-athletes be tested once a week and receive their results before being allowed to compete.
“There is a plan in place for the testing process,” said Peeples. “We are grateful for good partners in the community who were willing to work with us. That’s the beauty of being in a community where I think the community it’s really proud to have Piedmont College here and to have you guys here on campus people are really willing to work with us.”
President James F. Mellichamp and Head Athletic Trainer Matthew McKinney worked to reach out to the community and set up a plan for testing athletes for COVID-19. Local businesses such as Tim’s Pharmacy have agreed to work with Piedmont to handle the mass amount of testing in order to help keep athletes safe so that they can get back to competing as soon as possible.
“I believe people who do this for a living do it because they love and enjoy working with college-age students,” said Peeples. “The last thing that anybody wants to do is put their student-athletes at risk to something that potentially could be catastrophic. Nobody wants to put their student-athlete in that situation but we all know because many of us and most of us were College student-athletes know how important this time in a student-athlete’s life is and understand the desire for them to have the ability to go and compete.”