Athletics restrictions tighten in the face of omicron


Kalex Dodge

With the rise of omicron, good social distancing is highly encouraged at sporting events.

As COVID-19 cases rise across the state of Michigan, Calvin’s athletics guidelines are growing stricter. This time around, restrictions focus on protecting individual teams, with a flexible array of options to respond to an outbreak.

Protocols from the CDC, local health officials and protocols from the NCAA and MIAA have served as the foundation of the athletics department’s guidelines throughout the pandemic. This spring, these restrictions tightened to prevent the spread of the omicron variant.

Most of these new protocols depend on the number of people who have been in contact with the virus. At Calvin, alarms are raised if three or more members of a team are impacted by the virus. If this happens, there are a couple of things the athletic department could decide to do. “We can mitigate by testing, we can mitigate by putting the team on pause, and that pause could last anywhere from ten days to five days depending on the circumstances that are in there,”  Calvin Athletic Director James Timmer  told Chimes. “We are really trying not to do a ‘one size fits all’ but trying to make sure we give ourselves the best chance to compete and keep people as healthy as possible.”

 However, Calvin’s student athletes are becoming confused, stressed and frustrated as a result of the constant changes in guidelines.

Our hockey team was gearing up to play our first game of the semester this weekend when one of our unvaccinated players tested positive. We immediately stopped practicing and canceled our games,” junior hockey player Jacob Siebenga told Chimes.

For Siebenga, the repeated changes to vaccination requirements have also been frustrating. With students now required to receive a COVID booster shot to avoid testing and close-contact quarantine, Siebenga is discouraged. “When will it stop? Will we be required to get a shot every year to have a small chance of playing our sport?” he said.

The Covid Response Team has also closed Hoogenboom Gym and the racquetball courts for any unsupervised contact sports like pick-up games of soccer and basketball. The CRT’s intent is to facilitate a safe return to campus, and the group hopes to decide on a reopening date by Feb. 1.

Although students have felt burdened by the many changing protocols, it’s such rules that have kept their seasons going. “With all college teams in our division following the same protocols,” Timmer said, “we are giving ourselves the best chance that there is no spread between teams and between teammates.”

Timmer also had several suggestions for the parents and students in the stands at sporting events. Not only does the Spoelhof Fieldhouse have a requirement for all students and guests to wear masks, but there are also suggestions for good social distancing practices at games and meets. “We have plenty of seats,” Timmer said. “Keeping good practices such as washing hands, wearing masks and even keeping a few seats between you and another party may help slow the spread of the virus.

Though cases are on the rise, Timmer expressed confidence that a set of well-informed and adaptable guidelines can keep Calvin teams on the court and in the game this winter.