Emory University’s athletic teams have dealt with many restrictions and regulations from the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as the University’s COVID-19 case numbers continue to decline and more Emory affiliates receive vaccines, some pre-pandemic routines are slowly resuming. The most recent step to normalcy was the approval for athletic teams to compete at home on campus.

After resuming practices earlier this semester, teams were practicing without a definitive plan for competition the rest of the semester. Emory Athletics announced that starting March 10, teams could resume intercollegiate competition for away games only. Now, beginning April 5, Emory Athletics will be in a “yellow” operating status, which permits athletic teams to host home games.

Emory baseball is the first sport scheduled for a home game and is slated to play Piedmont College (Ga.) on April 6. Sophomore outfielder Jack Masonis is excited to return to Chappell Park, the team’s home stadium, as he’s only played a few home games before the season was interrupted last spring. Masonis and the underclassmen are happy the seniors now have the peace-of-mind of finishing their Emory athletic careers on their own turf. 

“It’s a good feeling to be able to play on our own field with the seniors after everything that has happened,” Masonis said. “Home games are also a relief to have just so we aren’t having to travel two-plus hours in each direction to play.”

Prior to the status change, athletic teams were prohibited from staying overnight away from Emory’s campus. That meant teams — other than golf which competes in weekend-long events — would have to travel to their games the same day of competition, sitting on long bus rides before being expected to play at their highest level just a few hours later. After the games, they would then travel back to campus and study. With the approval of home games, crammed road trips will be much more scarce.

Emory Athletics released a game day protocols guide following the announcement. Facility access will be restricted to essential personnel, including the home and visiting team traveling parties, the Emory University Athletic Department and the University Staff and Emergency Personnel.

Excluded from home games are non-essential personnel like fans and community members, players’ families, media and scouts. The community will be able to follow live stats feeds and limited live streams on the Emory Athletics website but will not be able to attend in-person.

Sophomore men’s tennis player Michael Moll is ready to play on the University’s newly resurfaced home courts for matches. However, upon hearing the news of the resumption of home games, Moll was concerned the University would require student-athletes to wear masks while actively competing, which is a rule most other schools do not have in place. Thankfully for Moll and other athletes, though, protocols do not require actively competing athletes from wearing masks. 

“For tennis, it’s super annoying to wear masks outdoors while playing,” Moll said. “[Masks] slip when running and hitting.”

Regardless of the specific details of the protocols, just being able to finally play home games is a huge step in the return to athletics. Moll and his teammates are grateful for the University’s clearance, though a home match for the men’s tennis team has yet to be scheduled.

“I think I speak for the whole team and all Emory athletes when I say I couldn’t be more excited to get back on the court and get back to competing, especially at home,” Moll said. “It’s been over a year, so we’re all definitely ready to compete again on campus.”

Emory athletics teams are now able to play games on the University’s campus. The baseball team hosts the first home game on April 6. (Emory Wheel/Forrest Martin, Former Photo Editor)