Brian Atkins, head athletic trainer, supervising testing in Leithead Fieldhouse.

Critical Players in Battling COVID-19

Thanks to the efforts of coaches and staff, the entire campus had a successful fall

Bob Durocher

During my time as St. Lawrence’s men’s soccer coach and an athletic department administrator, I’ve seen the coaches and staff members in athletics go above and beyond the call of duty in times both good and bad.

None of us—not even those of us who have worked at St. Lawrence more than 30 years—have ever lived through times as challenging as those we’re living through right now. But as I look back on everything that we did to get through the most challenging semester any of us can remember, I couldn’t be more proud of the work done by our athletic department staff.

While we were disappointed by the loss of our fall sports teams’ competitive seasons, our staff jumped at the opportunity to play an important role in COVID-19 testing as students returned to campus. Our athletic trainers, led by Brian Atkins, assistant athletic director for compliance and head athletic trainer, helped plan and coordinate our testing protocols. Our coaches and staff manned the check-in desks and acted as observers during the testing process. In all, our staff dedicated more than 1,500 hours at our COVID-19 testing site in Leithead Fieldhouse.

Our students were initially only allowed to gather in small groups with their “family units,” and thanks to the hard work of the residence life team, many of our student-athletes’ family units consisted of their teammates. After several weeks, our coaches were able to begin holding practices in small groups of 10 or fewer, with student-athletes adhering to social distancing guidelines and wearing masks, as appropriate. As time went on and random testing on campus continued and intensified, we allowed those groups to grow to approximately 30 student-athletes, and then eventually to expand to full practices even for our teams with larger rosters.

Assistant men’s hockey coach Ben Murphy works with Max Dorrington.
Assistant men’s hockey coach Ben Murphy works with Max Dorrington.
Head volleyball coach Shelly Roiger disinfects a plastic barrier at the net.
Head volleyball coach Shelly Roiger disinfects a plastic barrier at the net.

Our coaches were creative with their workouts, and the time together gave our student-athletes an opportunity to build their fitness, work on their skills, and develop as a team. Perhaps even more importantly, our student-athletes were able to feel a sense of normalcy for an hour or two during practice sessions.

Given the uncertain terrain we were operating upon, the fall semester was an incredible success story. As of this writing, we have administered 20,777 COVID-19 tests and only had 20 positive results, or as I like to think of it, we posted 20,777 wins this fall! 

Just like any athletic season, however, there are lessons to be learned. Near the end of the semester, it seems as though we let down our guard, confirming that COVID-19 is a relentless opponent. Thirteen of our 20 positive cases came in November, right before the Thanksgiving Break.

That said, our “season” isn’t over. We need to build upon the positives, learn from our mistakes, and improve our performance the next time out.

I’m confident that our students and staff will return to campus with a renewed dedication to keeping our campus open for the rest of the year. Having learned so much from the fall, we will build on our success. It will be an amazing feeling to know that we have done all we can to beat this virus and made St. Lawrence even stronger in the process.

Bob Durocher is the senior associate vice president for Athletics.