MOUNT VERNON — Skagit Valley College's sports teams have returned to the courts, diamonds and fields, albeit under strict COVID-19 guidelines.
Basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball and softball teams have in the past two weeks started practices.
The golf team started its fall season Sept. 14.
"It's just great to be back out there," said women's soccer coach Tony Savoy. "We are hoping to teach that moments of adversity can be used as an opportunity to get stronger."
Skagit Valley College Athletic Director Mitch Freeman said all players had to complete a two-week mandatory "shelter in place" before being allowed to practice. That meant for those two weeks they had to limit their contact to those with whom they are living during fall quarter.
In addition, the athletes underwent physicals/COVID-19 screening administered by a physician before moving to the small group workouts on campus.
Now, athletes must fill out health surveys before and after practices, and must submit to temperatures checks.
The process of getting players into practices started several weeks ago.
"During physical night, which our trainer arranged, all players and coaches were screened for COVID," said women's basketball coach Deb Castle. "We all signed waivers understanding the conditions and what could happen."
Each practice is limited to five players and one coach, and masks must be worn when social distancing is not possible.
"We are practicing social distancing and wearing masks at practice in smaller pods of five," Savoy said. "But an opportunity to be on the field and have this team be able to get strength and conditioning workouts and touches on the soccer ball again finally feels a little bit like normal."
There is also constant hand-washing, use of hand sanitizer as well as the disinfecting of all equipment that is touched.
Inside, doors and windows are opened where possible in order to create airflow.
Coaches get a maximum of 12 hours a week with their players.
"We can only work in groups of five or less," Castle said. "So I will have five on the court working them out on fundamentals and Marielle Hinderman will be working another group out in the upper area of the gym."
For those athletes who practice in the gym, masks must be worn when they arrive, temperatures must be taken and only the north entrance is used.
"There are hand-washing stations all over the gym area," Castle said. "We are not allowed to use the locker rooms and each player must bring their own water bottle and towel. The training room is for injuries only. No getting ice for water bottles or just going in there.
"For my practices, each girl has a spot on the floor where she will leave her equipment and stand when I am doing instructions and coaches must wear masks at all times."
Fall workouts will end Nov. 20, whereupon athletes will be free to return home and continue their online classes. They will report back to campus Jan. 2 and again shelter in place before resuming practices.
If all goes as planned, with phases and thresholds met, the hope is seasons will start soon after.
"We will play a preseason game on Feb. 13," Castle said. "We get three games. League play will begin March 2 and we will play each league team three times instead of twice."