York Athletics Talks the Return to Sports Amid The Pandemic

York Cardinals Logo. Photo Credit | York Athletics

By Emiree Campbell

As CUNY colleges reopen to the public and traditional school settings slowly return, school Cardinal spirit is brought back to life as York’s athletic teams return to their playing fields after being canceled for over a year and a half. The covid pandemic has changed almost everything including sports, being that risks still exist when athletes are in close contact with each other and health guidelines reported by the CDC are still in effect. Just like many other college sports teams across the country, York Cardinals have rules and regulations that must be implemented for the remainder of the sports season.

New Protocols, Rules, and Regulations

The City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC) with the help of committees including athletic trainers, physicians, and many others joined together to prepare protocols focused on the health, safety, and wellbeing of all members and instructors on the team. The CUNYAC is requiring all athletes to be fully vaccinated, all student-athletes partaking in the postseason, regular season, intramural, etc meet this requirement regardless of the FDA’s approval of the vaccine. Students may be exempt if they request and receive a medical or religious exception, but they will be subjected to regular COVID testing. Students are continuously traveling and meeting new people with whom they are in close contact, increasing risk factors.

“We have implemented gameday protocols that require attestation forms from all visiting teams that confirm that the noted individuals listed on the team are fully vaccinated or have a medical/religious exemption,” said York’s Assistant Athletics Director, Harris Rappel, who adds that Public Safety is then notified of who is visiting the campus along
with visitors logging into the Cleared4 system. “We over-communicate with the visiting teams and officials prior to their arrival to campus about our protocols, and once they arrive, we are actively enforcing them to ensure the health and safety of all parties involved.” In addition, New York state has mandated that no live audiences, fans, or spectators are
allowed to attend or permitted to enter any college sports venue, even outdoors. Only national league teams are allowed to host audiences. These regulations are instilled for safety purposes, although some may deem it unfair
and unfit.

Harris Rappel said this mandate is involved with how well they can manage campus protocols brought with the pandemic. “After our Cardinals were without sport since March 2020, we are all pumped to be able to get back to doing what we are passionate about

“Compared to where we were at this time last year, getting back to sports is just the start,” said Rappel, “We are looking forward to the time when we can welcome fans back to our home games.”

When asked about when fans can expect to be back in the audience watching Cardinals compete again, Rappel said, “That is one of the top questions that we field from our student-athletes, students, coaches, staff, alumni, and friends of the program. That time will come, but only when we can do so in a safe manner as the health and safety of our college community is and will always be our top priority.”

Being that audiences can’t attend games, other measures have been taken to ensure families, friends, students, and faculty members can still enjoy them. “In the absence of fans at home games, we do offer live streaming of our home games on campus, and we are working towards providing the same experience for when we host games off-campus,” said Harris. “You can visit www.yorkathletics.com/live to see our streaming schedule for upcoming games.”

Adjusting From Pre-pandemic to Now

COVID has forced many individuals and families across the country to adjust to the evolving changes brought about abruptly, as York Athletics does the same with its programming, as games are now being live-streamed. Rappel expressed gratitude for the way York’s IT department has helped them with technological endeavors. “They have maximized resources on campus to help us implement the new technologies needed to keep up with today’s demand,” said Rappel. “Whether it is functioning virtually or in person, or the upgraded broadcasting hardware, we are excited for the direction that we are trending towards reflecting on the time that we were without sport. It really makes you appreciate what we had and where we are now and that you can never take anything for granted.”

With York Athletics being the life of the college community for many, the return of sports teams makes many in the department feel as if Cardinals are being welcomed home again.

“It feels amazing to be back and running,” said the Assistant Coach of the Women’s Volleyball Team, Evelyn Florentino. “Nothing excites me more than stepping into my home as an alumna of York and the Women’s Volleyball Team,”

Florentino adds that readjusting was tough, as some teams struggled with getting back into the groove of things— especially since the structure is completely different and things are constantly changing. “We had a rough start, but we have improved every game since we started the season,” said Florentino.“I can imagine what it will be like when we actually have a full season to play next fall. The team adjusted fairly quickly which I knew they would.”

York Athletics New and Improved

A lot has changed about the structure of the Athletics team since the pandemic. Not only are there a series of rules and regulations to follow, but there are now new members, a new mindset, new goals and expectations from the teams. “It is definitely a different kind of season. I believe mentally and physically everyone was tired because it’s been such a
long time since we’ve been on the court,” said Florentino. “But we made it through and couldn’t be happier with this season.”

Assistant Director Rappel expressed that there will be an influx of new talent to be expected from York Athletics this year. “We are in a much better position than we were in during the 2020-21 academic year now that we have returned to sport,” said Rappel. “Our department in 2021-22 has a few new faces as we welcome our new head coaches and student-athletes to campus, who are eager to rise above and make a difference.”

Recruiting Athletes

Recruiting Athletes is a challenging process considering the pandemic and York’s new protocols along with other obstacles. Although the athletics teams are of a decent size at 67 athletes on the roster for fall sports, new
members are always welcome. Despite the warm outreach, Athletics has experienced difficulty trying to bring people abroad.

“Across the college landscape, roster sizes appear to be smaller than where they were in 2019-20,” said Rappel, who provided data comparing the Fall 2019 season and this season, showing the fall season with 76 athletes. “A few
of our fall sports got off to a late start, but we are proud of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff for continuing to push forward so that all six of our fall programs were able to compete during their seasons.”

Rappel said that many coaches in the department are actively recruiting to continue growing their teams, in search
of “high-character athletes.” He adds that if any students are interested in joining a sports team, they can visit the York Athletics website, where they can complete the Prospective Student-Athlete Form at www.yorkathletics.com/psa.

“I am accepting new players for next fall and also recruiting,” said Florentino. I have three seniors who will be graduating at the end of the semester and the spring semester so if anyone is interested please pass them over
to me!”

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