Long Beach State spring athletics will resume activity starting Feb. 15, Roger Kirk, director of athletic communications, said in a statement Monday.
“We’re thrilled to be moving forward with our spring sports, and are thankful for the opportunity that has been presented to us by our partners at Long Beach Health and Human Services,” athletic director Andy Fee said in an email. “Now is the time for our coaches and staff to shine as we proceed with the goal of providing the best possible opportunity for our spring sports student athletes to represent our university.”
Put on pause in March of last year, 10 spring-season sports are anticipated to make a return to Long Beach State athletics after the Big West Conference Board of Directors announced earlier this month that conference members were cleared to resume athletic activity.
Dirtbags pitcher Matthew Fields said he is “excited for this upcoming season.”
“It’s not going to be easy by any means, but I’m confident that our team will be prepared,” Fields said. “We have a chance to make a real statement about our program considering we haven’t even had a single practice yet. We will be ready come our first game and I’m pumped for what’s to come.”
The department faced several hurdles, Fee said, before it could confirm an actual resumption in play.
Approval from the Big West Conference Board of Directors was just the first step. The following, which has now been achieved, was approval from city health officials.
The next steps, Fee said, include continued testing and mandatory department-wide vaccination.
Fee said the department is still planning to test athletes three times per week to ensure the safety of all members of the program. The only thing that will change come spring, he said, is the cost of testing itself.
“We have found even very recently, costs are coming down quite a bit. There’s more technology coming out, more competition, I guess,” Fee said. “Certainly, with more testing, it’s kind of like the Costco effect, we’re hoping that we can package more testing into a cheaper per test cost for antigen testing, which is cheaper than PCR testing, but even that was still relatively expensive.”
Vaccinations, Fee said, will be optional for members of the department, but mandatory for those wishing to resume in-person activity.
“We’re not going to kick people off a team, but essentially, you wouldn’t be allowed to come to practice or any of the team functions if you don’t take the vaccine,” Fee said. “We just need to keep that bubble, so to speak, as I call it as safe as possible.”
Any coaches, staff members or players who do not want to get vaccinated will not receive any penalty for their decision to refrain from doing so. Players’ on-campus housing, their financial support or their place on respective teams will not be affected by this decision either.
“We don’t look at this as some sort of punitive measure, it’s just from a safety standpoint of trying to limit [and] mitigate transmission of COVID,” Fee said.
With the Moderna vaccine expected to arrive within weeks, student Health Services is in the beginning stages of screening and scheduling students, faculty and staff for their vaccinations. Out of the seven stage distribution plan, student athletes are fifth on the list.
“The first time we hear that we can go get vaccinated, we’ll be in line,” Fee said. “It sounds like just talking to our coaches and student athletes, it seems anecdotally like everybody wants the vaccine, unfortunately, [it’s just] a little bit of a waiting game, as it is for most of us now.”
Fee said that he is looking forward to making up for lost time.
“Personally, I’m most excited that despite all of the challenges over the past year presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, that we’ll have the opportunity to limit the [loss] for our spring student-athletes to just one, the 2020 season, as we return for 2021,” Fee said.