On the day before Thanksgiving, Steven Gonzales, the Interim Chancellor of Maricopa County Community Colleges, made athletes, coaches and fans thankful, when he announced that sports will return to the county’s Community Colleges beginning after Jan. 1.
Since the start of the school year in August and before, coaches and student/athletes have been trying to prepare for their seasons remotely, wondering if their teams will have a chance to play amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With the decision to return to play, Maricopa County Community Colleges were able to deliver a firm outline on their COVID-19 safety protocols and how the seasons for each sport would roll out.
The outline of the COVID-19 safety protocol is split up into seven different categories.
They address issues ranging from health screenings for symptoms and risk mitigation, to practice and weight training.
“All student-athletes and athletics staff will be required to do daily symptom screenings and temperature checks which the Athletic Training staff will use to clear them for daily activities,” the document states.
The document also mandates face coverings for both staff and athletes during times when they are not physically active and stresses that social distancing and sanitization are going to be key to maintaining the health and safety of the players.
SCC Men’s basketball coach Mark Bunker commented on one of the more impactful protocols that doesn’t involve coaches or athletes at all, but prohibits fans from attending games.
“It’s just going to be different because, you know, a lot of it’s going to be no fans and things like that, so it’s going to be a lot of empty gyms being used. But at the end of the day we are excited that we get a chance to have a season and be able to compete a little bit,” Bunker said.
Three fall sports which were postponed because of the pandemic begin their seasons on unusual dates.
SCC Volleyball will begin play when they host South Mountain C.C. on Feb. 5 and Men’s and Women’s soccer will kick off (pun intended) their seasons during the second half of the semester, on April 3.
Artichoke basketball returns to the hardwood on Jan. 20 when Cochise College travels to Scottsdale.
Most teams will begin in-person practices on Jan. 4.