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Montana athletic facilities set to reopen for Griz student-athletes

Sunday Conversation: Kent Haslam talks contract negotiations, Big Sky Conference health
Posted at 6:28 PM, May 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-31 11:10:53-04

MISSOULA -- As the state moves forward with Governor Steve Bullock's reopening plan, so too does the University of Montana.

In a documented plan provided to MTN Sports, the Montana athletic department alerted student-athletes and parents about how UM will reopen its facilities moving forward. Athletes and their parents were provided the document as a plan as voluntary summer workouts approach.

The reopening plan was first reported by the Missoulian.

The plan is centered around Griz football players who will begin the transition, with other sports following suit soon after and with similar guidelines.

Griz athletics will begin checking in athletes on May 31, and voluntary weight training and conditioning will begin on June 1, the first day Phase 2 of Bullock's plan is also set to start. This initial check-in will give updates on where athletes have been and when they return to Missoula as well as update everyone on the procedures for each check-in while also allowing students to retrieve items they need from the locker room right away.

According to the plan:

  • Due to state travel restrictions, student-athletes must arrive in the state and quarantine for 14 days, meaning athletes outside of Montana will have to quarantine before using the facilities.
  • Student-athletes will be placed in groups of 10, and those groups will be maintained throughout the summer.
  • Two groups of 10 students can work out on different ends of the weight room, which allows for social distancing.
  • Student-athletes must follow CDC and local health department guidelines during the rest of the day to mitigate risk to others in the group and/or force a potential weight room use stoppage.
  • Each day before lift or run, the group of staff, student-athletes and strength coaches, will go through a check-in process.
  • During lift each student-athlete will have their own area to maintain distance. When completed, the student-athlete will do some level of cleaning of the facility/equipment before leaving to hand washing station and leave the building.
  • All areas will be cleaned between each group and session before the process can be started again with a new group.
  • The locker room will be closed, and cannot be used this summer.
  • Student-athletes must wear masks at all times.
  • Student-athletes must bring their own full water bottles. Water fountains are not available.
  • The Nutrition Center will remain closed.

"Ever since we shut down we've been in the process of having to reintroduce and reopen, so how do we go about that?" UM athletic director Kent Haslam told MTN Sports. "We have a health mitigation group on campus, so we developed (the plan) and got some feedback from them. We have some real great experts on our campus that understand epidemiology and community health and so we relied on them as well.

"The focus is really sticking to the advice and guidance that we got from the state of Montana and also what came down from the Missoula City-County Health Department."

The plan also details the daily check-in routine for each athlete in the main entrance of the Champions Center. Trainers and weight room staff will conduct symptom and temperature checks. Athletes must be dressed ready to go, including masks, and have to wait in their cars before someone gives them the clearance to begin their check to abide by social distancing rules. After their checks, athletes will wash hands, while continuing to maintain social distancing, Bathrooms will also be cleaned after each use and group session.

After lift sessions are over, athletes will help clean their area before exiting out the back to avoid cross-contamination with new groups coming in. Each area will be cleaned between groups.

When it comes to the weight room plan, two groups of 10 on different sides of the weight room will be using equipment. According to the plan, those groups are based on living and work arrangements. Athletes will remain with their groups and there will be one strength coach per two groups. Those coaches will be with those athletes each day.

Weight room sessions will last one hour, with 45 minutes for lifting and another 15 for cleanup. Running sessions, including speed and conditioning, will occur on an outdoor facility.

Minimal equipment will be used and will be mainly barbell variations. One athlete is allowed per rack and all equipment will be left out until cleaned post-workout. Athletes will also not be placed on the floor during workouts.

After workouts are done, strength staff will monitor cleaning and supplies will be provided for each station.

The plans also provide protocols if an athlete has symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever, shortness of breath or a cough. Athletes must notify trainers before coming to workouts and will be in contact with the team physician. UM will follow CDC recommended steps for testing and if an athlete does test positive, the athlete and school will follow CDC guidelines and the athlete won't return until cleared in accordance with the criteria set by state and local health departments.

If an athlete has a measured fever on screening but no symptoms, the athlete will moved to a different room for 30 minutes and be rechecked. If there is no fever they can begin participating. If abnormal still, they will be sent home and an athletic trainer will be in contact with them in 24 hours.

Athletes will a single symptom on the report but no temperature will be sent home and a trainer will contact them in 24 hours.

Haslam said even though Montana's Phase 2 is beginning and group sizes are permitted to get bigger, for now UM will stick with the groups of 10 because they're easier to monitor. The athletic department wants to start small and see how things go first.

Other sports will begin using the facilities shortly thereafter and Haslam said they will follow similar guidelines. For all who use the Champions Center, the goal is to keep them in groups for easier contact tracing if needed, and to clean and disinfect as much as possible depending on what each sport used.

"I'm really grateful that we have a facility like the Champions Center," Haslam said. "I can't imagine what this would be like in a place like our old locker room. Just the space that we have, the number of racks that we have, we can easily spread out in the Champions Center. We're all anxious, our student-athletes are anxious, our coaches are really anxious. We want to get back to doing some things that feel like somewhat of normal, but we also want to make sure we do it in a prudent way and in a healthy way.

"It does bring you a sense of normal coming back and it feels good no doubt."