Hawks Athletics During the Pandemic
On Aug. 19, the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) announced that all Fall 2020 sports would be postponed until the Winter 2021 season. As a member of the NJCAA, Henry Ford College had no choice but to comply. Teams were still able to practice with staggered starts and reserved times for each respective sport. To ensure the safety of coaches, staff, and athletes, HFC implemented an in-depth plan to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Athletes must first fill out a form on the HFC website that asks players to list any symptoms they might have and whether or not they have come in contact with a COVID-positive individual.
Shortly thereafter, the player will receive an email either denying or granting them access to the campus. This confirmation email is then used as a makeshift admit-one ticket when the student arrives at HFC for a temperature check. Once athletes make it down to their respective court or field, masks are required to be worn at all times.
When the season does resume, Athletic Director Rochelle Taylor said the college will set up live streams of games for fans to stay a part of Hawks action while staying safe from the pandemic. Taylor also stated that moving Fall sports into the Winter season will be a virtually seamless transition that will not interfere with either sport. The schedules for both seasons will almost fit together like pieces of a puzzle, allowing for two seasons to happen at once with little increased risk.
HFC is in regular contact with neighboring community colleges to ensure transparency, cohesion, and minimize potential outbreaks. Despite all these precautions and a generally positive response from players, fans, and families alike, some like women’s volleyball freshman Lily Grantham are apprehensive about a return. “Honestly, I think we should hold off (on restarting) because we don’t really know what the virus is capable of yet,” Grantham said.
Despite being an NJCAA school, HFC is being used as a counter-example to University of Michigan—Dearborn, an NAIA (D3) school right next door to the college that has indefinitely canceled athletics through March 2021. UMD was the first school in the state to postpone fall sports and has remained steadfast in its decision to cancel athletics during the pandemic, citing health and safety of players, faculty, and coaches.
UMD held a virtual meeting on Oct. 22 that included athletes and Chancellor Domenico Grasso to discuss a potential restart. The meeting concluded with no motion for reinstatement of athletics. UMD sophomore and JV basketball player Mo Wahidi expressed he would be willing to cover transportation, food, and housing costs just to get a chance at playing this season. “We’re going to do whatever it takes. This is why we’re here,” Wahidi said.
Regardless of what may occur at neighboring colleges, HFC is on track to resume sports safely by Winter 2021. Teams will continue to abide by COVID-19 guidelines and the college will work to ensure that any cases that arise are handled promptly and effectively.