The heart strings of many student athletes had been pulled throughout 2020 as last year’s spring season, this past fall season and the upcoming winter season were partially or fully canceled. With no athletic director for the entirety of this academic year, many athletes were unsure what the future would hold. But on Dec. 21, Assistant Athletic Director for Student Athlete Success and Compliance Audrey Hester emailed spring athletes outlining plans to resume practices for the upcoming semester.
The decision came as coronavirus cases in Georgia continue to skyrocket. The University’s guidelines affect all Emory sports teams, but the specific onboarding process applies only to spring sports teams such as tennis, golf, baseball and track and field.
Student athletes who want to practice must complete an onboarding process that includes weekly COVID-19 testing, a course on safe practices and frequent medical exams. Practices will begin at the start of the semester with more small-group training and will eventually progress into full-team practices.
Junior pitcher Dylan Kahn said he believes athletes will follow health protocols after an abbreviated 2020 season left them yearning to play.
“I think everyone is going to be 100% committed to following the guidelines because we really want to play,” Kahn said. “That’s the most important thing to us. Last year, after getting cut short, we had a lot on our plates. We felt like we had a really good chance to do well, and now everybody is even hungrier this season.”
While the guidelines are a start, formal competition is still shrouded with ambiguity. Basing his expectation for the spring on the fall, men’s track and field long distance runner Jon Marcus, a junior, has stymied his optimism.
“At the very least, we can just do what we did in the fall,” Marcus said. “Whoever is around, we can meet up and train together in whatever capacity we can … My hope is that we can have a real season, have a conference meet and still send some people to nationals.”
Baseball head coach Mike Twardoski, like other coaches, said he is looking out for his players’ best interests. Twardoski is especially concerned with balancing the physical and mental health of his players, as well as preserving their love for the game.
“If we can do this safely, it is essential for us to fight to get those kids back on the field to compete because mentally, I know my baseball team is so depressed right now,” Twardoski said. “Again, always putting forth that we are in a pandemic, you can’t look past that — it’s a big part of the equation..”
The spring semester will be yet another unprecedented season. As Emory Athletics tackles a more “touch-and-go” COVID-19 plan, student athletes are still hoping for the best with a very uncertain future.
“We’ll take whatever is given to us right now,” Kahn said. “We just want to be able to get onto the field and get ready for the season. The mindset right now is just be prepared and be at our best — be the most prepared for when the time comes.”