After a year long absence, the Lords and Ladies are returning to NCAA competition in the coming weeks. Kenyon sports practices resumed two and a half weeks ago, under the same COVID-19 restrictions as last semester. As is the case everywhere on campus, masks are to be worn at all times, and athletes still must adhere to social distancing protocols.
In the fall, the College emphasized the NCAA’s three-phase approach to returning to varsity athletics. This spring, however, that phased approach will eventually lead to intercollegiate athletics competition. In the process, “group interaction [will be] introduced progressively over five weeks, with the emphasis on best practices to reduce spread of COVID-19,” wrote Director of Athletics, Fitness and Recreation Jill McCartney in an email to the faculty and students. Current guidelines allow five official practices per week and small group training is still the new normal.
Limited competition means teams are primarily focused on training, as was the case last semester. That being said, intra-squad events are allowed, as are a few intercollegiate contests. Kenyon’s decision to include these competitions is made possible by the “coordinated effort to align active teams from North Coast Athletic Conference institutions into weeklong pairings,” according to the Athletics Department website. This prevents the crossover of multiple teams that a typical conference schedule would include. A single team will compete against Kenyon each week in various sports in order to limit contact across different colleges if a COVID-19 outbreak were to occur.
Though it wasn’t utilized much last semester, the return-to-play process for athletes who tested positive (but are no longer contagious) remains the same. Once cleared by the Knox County Public Health Department, the players must pass a physical exam administered by Kenyon’s athletic trainers. After that is complete, athletes must follow a schedule — not unlike the phasing schedule of last semester — that tells them how many practices they are permitted to participate in and the training’s level of intensity. Eventually, they will be allowed to return to athletics full-time.
For baseball, softball, golf, men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse, in-conference competition will be against Allegheny College, Hiram College and The College of Wooster. For men’s and women’s tennis, contests will take place against Allegheny, Wooster and Denison University. Non-conference competition also includes events against Wittenberg University, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio Wesleyan University, DePauw University, Carnegie Mellon University and Wabash College. However, the College may cancel these competitions if there is a heightened risk of athletes contracting the virus.