• By Tyler Luban

Student-athletes train for new normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything we knew about the world around us, and for Minot State athletics, those changes include new safety protocols for the on-campus weight room to ensure the safety of student-athletes and staff.

The athletic department is constantly adapting in an attempt to return to regular training but now faces a new challenge: keeping more than 400 student-athletes safe and healthy. With this number of athletes, the staff and facility have implemented around-the-clock sanitation with safety in mind. But as the coronavirus cases continue to rise on campus, the weight room — along with all athletic activity — has been put on a temporary pause. Student-athletes know how important the weight room, which has been a staple for athletics at MSU, is to their success and athletic development, and they hope for a quick return to normal.

“The biggest challenge has undoubtedly been adhering to group size and social distancing protocols while still ensuring that every athlete on campus gets what they need from us as strength and conditioning service providers,” said Caleb Heilman, director of human performance at Minot State. “This has logistic and behavioral components to it, and getting both components dialed in has been a work in progress.”

As student-athletes begin training, Heilman and the athletic department have been working to ensure a safe environment for all teams. This includes limiting group sizes to no more than 25 athletes in order to meet certain protocols.

“We have state-issued hand sanitizer in dispensers in both the weight room and auxiliary room, spray/cleaning towels for student-athletes to use during their session, and we as coaches do our best to get equipment cleaned as often as possible,” Heilman said. “The facility staff also fogs the weight room with their Clorox 360 machine at the end of every day.”

With fall and winter sports cancelled, many student-athletes view this time as essential to improving their skills and preparing for the return of competitions to Minot State. Since the weight room and other athletic activities are suspended, athletes reflect on what that room means to them.

"The weight room means a lot; it would’ve been a good place for me to get away from what is going on in the world and on campus,” said Troy Kowal, junior football player for MSU. “It was much like a season schedule for me, which is something I really enjoyed.”

With sports comes passion, and both coaches and student-athletes demonstrate that with their desire to get back to practicing, but that doesn’t happen without the proper sanitation. The facilities staff plays their part by making sure these facilities are safe day in and day out.

No one knows the road ahead for athletics. Fortunately for Minot State, having a well-prepared and determined staff along with student-athletes who will do whatever it takes to get back to competition is a good start down the right path.

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