EXCLUSIVE: How Athletics Staff Safeguards the Campus

By Jen Malti 

Staff Writer 

FDU’s athletic trainers and student managers have had their daily work routines drastically changed since COVID-19. The Equinox reached out to several workers to get an inside look at how they protect themselves and others.

Nick Hodgman, head athletic trainer, said via email to The Equinox, “We have taken a strict approach with our athletes and have implemented a few new strategies we feel will best protect our student-athletes as well as our staff.” 

As with all students, athletic trainers and student managers are required to fill out the CampusClear app daily, wear masks and follow social-distancing guidelines. 

Staff and students are required to have their temperature checked and their hands sanitized on entering the Rothman Center. Athletes must make appointments for treatments and rehab, and check in at a designated check-in window and fill out a log sheet for contract-tracing purposes with athletic trainer Courtney McClain. The athletic training facilities have also been rearranged to comply with capacity limits.

Athletic trainers are required to use gloves during treatments, and dispose the materials to avoid cross-contamination. 

The Equinox also reached out to student manager for the basketball team Sal Xheraj and baseball team manager Anthony DiBlasio to see what their daily routine has been like. 

Xheraj, via Snapchat instant message, said, “During the pandemic, I was continuing to work hard in maintaining a high GPA. I also co-founded a podcast called ‘The Final 2’ with former FDU baseball player Oliver Tavares.

“The coaches did an amazing job of keeping the team informed on the upcoming changes,” he said. “Head Coach Greg Herenda and others reached out to myself and the players every week of the break, and held numerous team Zoom calls, since he cared about how we were doing and our well-being. They motivated us to stay focused on our academics and health as the time during the pandemic progressed.”

McClain told The Equinox that there are a ton of new protocols along with the protocols before COVID regarding health and safety, which can be found on fduknights.com under the health and safety plan. The staff is also following guidelines put out by the NCAA and the NEC conference.

Athletic trainers wear masks and gloves when treating the athletes and practice social distancing; they have also increased the amount of cleaning. 

“We are taking COVID-19 very seriously in the athletics department and know that any failure to do so could lead to an outbreak on campus, which is absolutely the last thing we’d like. We are in line with NCAA recommendations for best practices” Hodgman said.

Before the student-athletes’ arrival to campus, they are required to provide a detailed medical history that includes a questionnaire on COVID and must go through a screening process with the team doctors. Once cleared by FDU housing and doctors, the students can begin activity. They are then required to go through a gradual progression with the strength and conditioning coaches to ensure they are fit to begin training with their sport teams while  social-distancing guidelines are met. 

While the protocols for the athletic trainers have been altered, the duties of the student managers have changed as well. 

“In regards to my duties with the players and coaches, I help facilitate water, towels, and any player needs in regards to on-court necessities. On road trips, I help bring our sports equipment for travel, and pick-up/deliver food to our players on the road,” said Sal Xheraj about his work with men’s basketball. 

DiBlasio, student manager for the baseball team, said, “My duties as a team manager vary day to day, depending on what the practices call for that day. There are practices where I film the batters during the inter-squad and the pitchers as well. Along with any other task the coaches need to get done.” 

With the NEC expected to update its guidance for athletics for the rest of the year and into the spring, The Equinox will wait to hear whether these roles and protocols are changed again due to the current COVID-19 climate and our new “normal.”

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From left, head athletic trainer Nick Hodgman, student manager Sal Xheraj, student manager Anthony DiBlasio and athletic trainer Courtney McClain.

Art by Jen Malti