GVSU implements safety protocols as athletes return

NCAA Football

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Student-athletes around the country have started returning to campus, including at Grand Valley State University, but they’re finding things look different.

“The biggest thing for me is we need to change behaviors,” GVSU Associate Director of Athletics – Medical Services Mark Stoessner said. “(These are) 18- to 22-year old kids and they’ve been doing things the same way for 18 to 22 years. And I think it’s going to be difficult to have success if we keep doing things the way we’ve always done them.”

Coaches and medical personnel have come up with plans to keep their athletes as safe as possible, including working out in smaller groups to maintain social distance.

“It’s very different, coming in every day with nine other dudes,” senior Grant Dempster, a senior on the football team, said.

In the weight room, strength coaches wear masks and urge thorough cleaning of equipment.

“You can’t play football or basketball or soccer and be 6 feet away from somebody, so we have to do the best we can to mitigate the risk when we are not playing,” Stoessner said. “Hopefully we don’t get a bunch of kids sick.”

Athletes always face the risk of injury while playing, so head football coach Matt Mitchell pushed his players to keep working out while they were away, stressing that the risk is greater when they’re out of shape.

His next concern is the possibility of a second wave of infections and another shutdown just as things get moving again.

“There’s also some risks of mental and emotional health,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been on point about being concerned about that. Some of these guys are very serious about football and the connections they have here and they haven’t had that. That would probably be the biggest thing I would be concerned about, is the mental outlook if you start up and have to shut down. I think what does that does for the future in regards to their education. I’d be really concerned about that. Would you have guys that would be the final crushing blow and they walk away?”

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