The first students to start the 2020-2021 school year arrived on campus Wednesday afternoon when 28 members of the Culver Military Academy football team checked in for preseason practice. But, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the routine was altered slightly from past years.
Coach Andy Dorrel said more players will be arriving over the next few days. He anticipates the numbers to rise to almost 40 by early next week. The team will be staying at Beason Park for the first few days of preseason camp.
The players were first tested for COVID-19 at the Penske Center at Woodcraft Camp before coming on to campus. Among the practice gear was a special gaiter to be worn when social distancing is not possible. They were also given special instructions on what to do and expect over the coming weeks.
Much of the check-in remained routine, yet enough had changed to remind the players this was a unique situation. As Athletic Director Kevin Cox told the players, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
“It’s different,” senior Jaxon Mull (Fort Wayne, Indiana) said. “I can’t express how excited I am to be back, even with all the COVID stuff going on. It’s just a blessing to be out here with my brothers again.”
Along with the protective gaiters they are to wear when not participating in high intensity activities, players are being assigned to specific pods and each will carry their own individualized water bottle. They will also have their temperatures checked and be required to fill out a short survey after each practice.
Trainer Ryan Fought said the survey is to check on more than just coronavirus symptoms. There are other causes, such as dehydration, that cause similar symptoms. The players – as will all students, faculty, and staff – will also be tested weekly.
Cox reminded the players that all the added precautions are to protect them. “Remember, we not doing this to you. We are doing this for you.”
For senior Deven Sukha (South Lake Tahoe, California), being back on campus is “really exciting. We’re ready for the year. We’re taking advantage of every opportunity. So we’re taking it a day at a time and giving it all we’ve got right now.”
Senior Eli Pack (Etna, Ohio) echoed Sukha’s remarks.
“It feels great. I’ve been waiting to compete since February,” he said. “I’m ecstatic to be back with my brothers. I can’t wait to stand on the field with them.”
During his talk with the players, Cox added the goal is to make this season the “best athletic experience” they have at Culver. But he reminded the players to “control what you can control. Protect yourself and have fun.”
“And we’ll take care of the rest.”