Athletes are back: Michigan’s plan for safe resocialization

Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 3:43pm

Phase one athletes reintroduced in 20-day process.

Phase one athletes reintroduced in 20-day process. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

On Monday, the University announced football, mens basketball and womens basketball teams can return for voluntary workouts. Before the athletes can participate, however, they will first have to go through the athletic department’s 14-day pre-report assessment, followed by a six-day resocialization period.

The 14-day pre-assessment is conducted before the athletes take a single step into the team’s facilities. In this period, a text message is sent out every morning asking questions as they relate to travel locations, any feeling of symptoms, mental health and anxiety levels, sleep and diet. The answers are reviewed by athletic trainers that are prepared to intervene depending on the athletes’ responses.

After that period, they may begin the resocialization process; the design of which was guided by NCAA, NFL and NBA guidelines as well as local public health experts at the University of Michigan.

On what associate athletic director Darryl Conway calls day zero, the athletes will report to University Health Services for testing.

They will get two COVID tests,” Conway said in a press conference Thursday afternoon. “One being the viral PCR test that actually tests for presence of the virus, and the other being a serology or antibody test.”

Following these tests, the athletes will enter a shelter in place period in which they will have virtual education sessions and review their health history with their athletic trainer. These sessions will last until day three.

On day four of the resocialization process, COVID-19-specific tests will be conducted along with EKGs and team physical clearances that include concussion testing and body composition tests.

Starting on the fifth day, sport-specific fitness will begin. Strength and flexibility testing will be the bulk of what’s on the athletes’ schedules for both the fifth and sixth day of resocialization.

On day seven, the resocialization process is concluded and strength and athletic training starts in a program designed to ramp up, eventually getting all athletes attending their voluntary workouts to 100 percent. All athletes and coaches are still subject to daily screening and required to adhere to policies regarding masks, social distancing and proper hand hygiene.

This policy, in the absence of a waiver, acts as protocol to keep student athletes safe and informed, and all athletes are expected to adhere to it — failing to will result in repercussions.

“We will treat it like if somebody else breaks a team rule, athletic director Warde Manuel said. We will talk to them, we will try to educate them and we will try to get them to where we are. But continued disregard of the policies, procedures and protocols that are in place could lead up to removal from the team.”

The future introduction of athletes hinges on the viability of this process that Michigan is currently putting to the test.

“We will evaluate what it’s looked like over the next couple of weeks,” Manuel said. “Then look to possibly bring back (more athletes), starting with our fall sports, in the beginning of July after the July 4 holiday.”

The first phase is already underway, and the relative success —  or failure —  will be determined over the next few weeks. The final verdict will be paramount for all decisions pertaining to athletics for the remaining part of the summer and into fall.