CHED finalizes guidelines for resumption of collegiate athletic training

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 26) – Student-athletes may start practicing again soon, with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) set to submit its collegiate training guidelines to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) this week.

Headed by CHED Executive Director Cindy Jaro, the technical working group (TWG) composed of representatives from various government agencies and higher education institutions, presented its extensive list of protocols in a virtual press conference Monday.

“These guidelines are up to the universities to implement if they want. Meaning, they have the option to start allowing their student-athletes to train but this is not a requirement for everyone to do it,” said CHED chairman Prospero De Vera.

Under the guidelines, the TWG highly recommends a bubble-like setup for the safe resumption of varsity practices where teams will conduct stay-in trainings inside school premises in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ.

Players, coaches and essential personnel will be isolated under one roof such as the campus dormitory and will be barred from leaving the premises throughout the training period.

But unlike professional sports leagues, the collegiate bubble will be limited to body conditioning exercises, non-contact drills, and individual skills development as the holding of tournaments remain prohibited.

“During this phase of physical training, hindi pa tayo pinapayagan na mag-laro ng scrimmage,” explained Francis “Kiko” Diaz, Dean of the U.P. College of Human Kinetics.

[Translation: During this phase of physical training, we are not yet allowed to play scrimmages.]

“Coaches should always wear masks and face shields during training, while student-athletes who are not undergoing training must also wear a mask while inside the training venue,” said Diaz.

The TWG, likewise, stressed the importance of “reengineering facilities” to accommodate the placement of handwashing facilities and routine disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, to comply with the minimum health standards set by the Department of Health.

But before collegiate teams can receive the green light, they must first submit a Collegiate Training Activities’ Certificate of Compliance duly signed by the university’s president and athletic director, seven days before they commence training.

This includes parent’s consent of each student-athlete participating, except those below 18 years old as they will only be allowed to participate in virtual trainings.

Meanwhile, the health department also stated that they will not be requiring antigen testing for participants prior to their entry inside the bubble. Instead, teams only need to subject themselves to a 14-day self-quarantine before entering the campus.

“If the institution would like to impose, it’s up to them but as part of our minimum health standards, hindi siya required (it’s not required),” said Rodley Carza, head of policy and technology, promotion and communication for the Department of Health.

“The 14-day quarantine ensures that the players have no symptoms of COVID-19 for the past fourteen days and that’s sufficient for the resumption of training activities,” said Carza.

Collegiate athletic associations, however, expressed that it may be a while before plans can come to fruition.

“Just because papayagan kami doesn’t mean sasali kami. So a particular school may have certain reservations so hindi pa rin clear. But the target, as what the host school has mentioned, is sarado na yung 2020. The earliest we can start is 2021,” said Atty. Rebo Saguisag, UAAP Executive Director.

[Translation: Just because we are allowed does not mean we will participate. So a particular school may have certain reservations, so it’s not yet clear. But the target, as what the host school has mentioned, is that 2020 is already closed. The earliest we can start is 2021.]

“Virtual and basic skills training done in the privacy of their abode is what we encourage, as far as the NCAA is concerned. Even if the TWG is in place, there are still a lot of things that need to be put in place before we can actually start training, so that is still all up in the air and depends on the capability of each member school,” said Hercules Callanta, NCAA Management Committee member.

With the finalization of guidelines, officials are optimistic that it will pave the way for the eventual resumption of collegiate sports tournaments but only after a vaccine becomes available.

“If we do a good job in implementing it with all the health protocols, the next logical step would be to start thinking about opening sports competitions,” said De Vera.