The Long Beach State men’s and women’s basketball teams had been slated to begin preseason practice Oct. 1. However, due to a recent outbreak of coronavirus amongst on-campus residents, the start date has been postponed for the foreseeable future, according to the Long Beach State athletic department.
According to Long Beach State athletic director Andy Fee, the department has definitive plans for outdoor practice including cardio, strength and conditioning led by the director of sport performance, Laura Teel.
“The first two weeks are going to be getting used to living in a COVID-19 world,” Fee said. “We will be providing players individual crates for all of their personal belongings that they will be required to carry their stuff around from workout to workout.”
To begin preseason, the team will be focusing mainly on strength and conditioning rather than typical indoor practice drills.
Following in the National Basketball Association’s footsteps, both the men’s and women’s teams have been in a “bubble” style atmosphere, holding each other accountable in mitigating spread of the virus to be able to safely return as a team.
President Jane Close Conoley said that student athletes are being grouped in pods of three to five athletes to maintain accountability amongst players and ensure coronavirus standards are being upheld as the season approaches.
“They’re not interacting willy nilly with everybody on the team, it’s like a family group,” Conoley said. “We’ve been testing everybody, but what we’re trying to avoid is having to quarantine everybody every time there’s a positive test because how could we possibly practice or compete? This pod idea is like the bubble, you’re not interacting with other people unless you’re playing.”
Using the pod model, Conoley said, ensures that the athletic department has more control over if any students were to contract the virus.
All student athletes have been filling out COVID-19 screenings daily through the student portal to assure players are safe to return to competition when allowed. Nearly 70 student athletes currently dorm on campus, according to Fee.
“Certainly the first step is getting up and running with outdoor activity. If people are not testing positive, the next hurdle would be getting approved for indoor activity,” Fee said. “We haven’t had any outbreaks on campus, and I think credit to our students, the housing staff and to the campus admin for communicating why it’s important.”
Conoely said the men’s and women’s basketball teams must stay sequestered from others for two weeks beginning now. If there are any breaks in the sequestration, the previously scheduled Oct. 1 outdoor practice start time will be delayed.
A recent Ohio State study of COVID-19 positive athletes found evidence of myocarditis in at least 26 students. Athletes participating in this year’s basketball season are set to be tested once to twice a week.
“It’s not an if, but a when,” Conoley said.
Rooms in the dormitories have been reserved for quarantining in the case that a student does contract the virus, including student athletes whether or not they are dormitory residents.
Securing adequate testing still remains the biggest hurdle for the return of athletics at the Beach.
According to Conoley, to adhere to the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Los Angeles County Health Department guidelines, the university will have to invest around $200 to $400 per week to test each student. A service that is currently being provided by Student Health Services, for now.
“The current plan is the Student Health Center but we don’t think we can scale that to all the athletes,” Conoley said. “We don’t think we have staff there to really be testing twice a week for nearly  athletes.”
Talks of the Beach participating in the Paradise Jam tournament were brought up last week, however, Conoley has her reservations.
“That’s not going to happen,” Conoley said. “Can we really trust the other teams?”
Fee is now in discussion to establish a more localized tournament to guarantee the safety of the players.
Looking towards spring 2021, Conoley remains unsure if the Beach will return to its normal athletics operations. As she and Fee continue to calculate how adequate testing will be completed in time for the basketball season, the reality of needing to test close to 400 athletes next season is something they are both unsure is feasible.
“The reality of sports is, I can’t see a scenario at the moment,” Conoley said. “Unless the vaccine immediately appears, tomorrow, we won’t be able to have many spectators.”