As the final weeks of Term 4 approach, there is much to reflect on surrounding how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled on Wellesley’s campus. The staff members of the Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics (PERA) department had a particularly challenging time incorporating the safest practices given the CDC guidelines. PERA staff worked closely with student-athletes over this past year, ensuring their safety while continuing their sport.
Staff members have had to shift their communication tactics to be more fast-paced given the day-to-day implications that the pandemic has posed on the community. The Keohane Sports Center (KSC) has had to shut down on a few different occasions due to positive case notifications among the athletics bubble. Tim Snyder, director of sports performance and fitness, shared comments on his experience working at the KSC with the News.
“Just like successful teams, we have been able to make necessary adjustments in our communication style to still be able to provide opportunities for students. Whenever there has been a potential issue, we’ve heard quickly from the PERA administration. Then we pass the information and action steps down to everyone in our lines of communication. In regards to COVID-19, it is imperative to be efficient with your communication so the information can be shared in an effort to keep the community safe,” Snyder said.
Coaching staff were tasked with the challenge of tailoring workouts and practices to the COVID-19 guidelines instated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, CDC and NCAA. Snyder and others tapped into their creativity to keep athletes performing at the level they were before the pandemic.
“Some of the main adjustments sports performance made were instead of having sessions in the varsity weight room, we moved most of our equipment into the Fieldhouse and held our sessions outdoors whenever possible,” Snyder said. “We created ‘boxes’ that were appropriately distanced that each student-athlete could be in, and provided detailed instructions on how to clean the equipment after use.”
Snyder noted that Wellesley’s student-athletes were very happy to be back in the team environment, even if it was not quite what they were used to. Not all athletes who have been living off-campus had access to the same gym equipment as those on-campus. Fitness staff posted bodyweight workouts on an app called TeamBuildr so remote students could continue to follow an exercise regiment.
Given the novelty of the pandemic, much of the infrastructure the College put into place to keep students and staff members safe was experimental. The PERA staff recognized this and kept lines of communication open between the athletes and the staff members, asking for feedback on how the pandemic was handled.
“It is obviously a difficult situation for all parties involved and I believe we have done an excellent job from President Johnson and senior leadership to PERA to the students living on-campus,” Snyder added. “PERA posted QR codes around the KSC to try to get as much feedback as possible. We felt as though it is important to hear the voice of the students and make adjustments when needed.”
The Wellesley student-athletes are very thankful for the coaching staff that have worked tirelessly to help them reach their fitness and athletic goals given these trying times. Blue Nation is gearing up to make a big comeback for when it is safe to compete again.