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Fall student-athletes return to campus for summer workouts

September 18, 2019: Rice Owls take Texas Longhorns in the fifth set 15-13 at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston, Texas. (© Maria Lysaker)

By Daniel Schrager     6/14/20 7:59pm

After a three month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rice athletics have taken the first steps towards their much-anticipated return. In a statement issued Thursday, Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard announced that Rice is beginning the process of returning its student-athletes to campus.

“We are excited to welcome our local, fall sport student-athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts,” Karlgaard said. “We hope [this] marks the beginning of our transition to having all of our student-athletes successfully return for the fall semester."

The Rice football, volleyball, soccer and cross-country teams will begin the first phase of their summer training programs on June 17. For now, these workouts will be limited to voluntary strength and conditioning training. Medical treatment will be available for players as well. Athletes will be separated into small workout groups according to their sport.

Local players began arriving on campus for COVID-19 screening on June 11. This is only a portion of each team, and the timeline for getting the remaining student-athletes back to campus is still being determined.

According to volleyball junior and first-team All-Conference USA selection Anota Adekunle, the modified offseason means that every day is crucial.

“I'm sure the rules and procedures will be strict when we come back,” Adekunle said, “so just making every minute count and not wasting any time while we’re in the gym is very important.”

Protocols will be in place to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19. Staff will be required to wear masks when in the building, as will athletes when they are not participating in a workout. Additionally, athletes will only be allowed in the building during their scheduled workouts to limit contact.

"Our staff has worked very thoughtfully on a plan that promotes safety and allows for mitigation in the event of any positive occurrences of the virus,” Karlgaard said.

According to sophomore Jaden Roberts, a defender and forward for the soccer team, these efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

“I feel comfortable coming back to campus due to the precautions our team has been taking,” Roberts said.

These precautions will mean significant changes to workouts. According to Austin Trammell, a senior wide receiver on the football team, athletes know that these changes will take some getting used to.

“It will be an adjustment with all the changes to how we are able to work out,” Trammell said. “It won’t be normal summer workouts, but it definitely won’t slow us down.”

Even with those adjustments, Trammell said that ultimately, he is just happy to be back with his teammates.

“I missed all of my teammates and I cannot wait to see them 6 feet away rather than over zoom,” Trammell said. “I’m just excited to be around the guys.”

This news comes the same day that the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee released a proposal for a six-week offseason training program for football teams across the country. The proposal includes three weeks of full practices beginning in early August.

Many steps still need to be taken in order for sports to return to campus in the fall. But with Thursday’s announcement, the first of those steps is already underway.

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