|Johnson C. Smith Golden Bulls gear up for fall athletics campaigns|
|Schedules, protocols going in place for restart|
|Published Wednesday, May 12, 2021|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|Johnson C. Smith athletics is in the process of gering up for competition for the first time since the 2020 CIAA basketball tournament. Fall sports including football (above) are finalizing schedules and COVID-19 protocols for athletes and coaches.|
Johnson C. Smith is in the process of bringing athletics back from a pandemic-induced hiatus.
Athletics director Steve Joyner said the school is planning on a return to all sports starting with the fall semester, the first activity since the 2020 CIAA basketball tournament. While coaches and athletes will have to handle physical challenges stemming from the long layoff, there have been academic rewards.
“It’s such a distinct change from what we quote-unquote were used to, what was normal,” Joyner said. “All of our learning was distant learning and remote learning. We had a few students who had problems with that but for the most part, our academic report card actually increased in all of our sports. …
“Having not been in competition, getting yourself ready for competition is a major concern for everybody. We’re going to be very strategic, tactical and mindful as we prepare our student athletes to get back involved in competitive sports.”
There are concrete plans to bring back all sports and fans based on federal, state and local guidance on mitigating the coronavirus spread. While no one knows whether masks or social distancing will be required, the school is prepared to be flexible.
“As of right now, the CIAA board of directors have informed us that we’re moving forward with athletics full blown as planned,” Joyner said. “There is a watchful eye on the fact that things are getting better but could change, but certainly, as of right now we will be back to full athletics.”
Part of the runup to the fall is making out schedules and putting together practice schedules for the offseason and preseason. All that is ongoing as dates with league rivals are finalized and nonconference opponents are penciled in.
“We’re in the process of doing that now,” Joyner said. “Summer workouts are purely voluntary, so we’re trying to make sure that we got some of those in place but certainly fall sports beginning with football, volleyball, cross country, things of that nature, the schedules are being prepared as we speak.”
JCSU leaders are monitoring the spread of COVID-19 locally and will put together protocols for athlete and campus safety for games and other activities. The school hasn’t mandated campus-wide vaccination to return to campus, but all options are open.
“As of now we will certainly finalize CDC guidelines for attending athletic events,” Joyner said. “Of course, we anticipate that we may not be in a full stadium, but we do expect to have some fans. We just have to wait and see in August, what the CDC guidelines tell us we can and cannot do.”
Even without games or practices since March 2020, the Golden Bulls haven’t undergone personnel changes, Joyner said. That continuity will help during the runup to workouts and competition.
“Our staff is still the same,” he said. “Our major concern is systematically working to get our student athletes prepared for competition and whatnot after having been off a year, but staff is in place, ready to go. We’re hoping it’s going to go well.”
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