Gavilan is ready to spring athletes back into action

Trainers develop protocols for athletes

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READY TO GO Gavilan College athletic trainer Rebecca Northon, seen here in 2019, is prepared for the eventual start of the spring sports season. Photo: Chris Spence

Once Gavilan College receives the go-ahead from the state of California and Santa Clara County to resume in-person classes and athletics competition, athletic trainers Rebecca Northon and Erik Hilliker will be ready to spring student-athletes back into action in the safest way possible. 

The two athletic trainers—Northon doubles as a kinesiology instructor at the Gilroy community college—collaborated with other athletic trainers throughout the state and created an Athletics Resocialization Protocol document which they’ve specifically tailored to student-athletes at Gavilan who will be able to return to in-person classes and physical activity in January. 

“We go off (the public health departments of) Santa Clara County and the state of California, which has its own institution of higher education document which we also follow as well,” said Hilliker, who is a member of the state community college Covid-19 task force. 

The Athletics Resocialization Protocol was put in place so student-athletes can have a sense of safety once they return to campus. Since county and state public health guidelines are subject to change on a moment’s notice, Hilliker and Northon have prepared for endless scenarios to make sure they’re ready to make quick adjustments. 

“These things are fluid, but we are confident with where our document is at right now,” Northon said. “We just have to make sure if anything comes out, we have to be on top of it. We’re always updating the document as we go.”

Every aspect of life has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, especially in the education sector, where distance learning has presented a host of challenges to students, teachers and parents alike. For athletic trainers, a new school year/season usually starts in July, when they get all of the athletes in the system to prepare them for conditioning. But Covid-19 has thrown everyone’s schedule for a loop, creating mental health challenges. 

“I’ve been challenged personally wanting to get back and have some sense of normalcy,” Northon said. “Since this all went down in March, Erik and I have been planning and thinking through every scenario. Usually when we do that, everything comes full circle. We can help, fix and move to the next step, and there is always something we can complete and move forward on. But with this (Covid-19), the process has been a never-ending starting point. It’s been false start after false start, and for me that is very frustrating never coming full circle with this holding pattern of Covid fatigue.”

Hilliker empathizes with all of the student-athletes who are in limbo as some of them look to earn a scholarship and play at a four-year university. 

“I played baseball at Hartnell in 2010 and I don’t know where I would be mentally if I was going through this,” he said. “I can’t imagine what these student-athletes are going through. For me (as an athletic trainer), it’s mentally exhausting and I miss the action. But working on this document and other things has at least kept my head straight. I have a purpose and a tunnel vision. I miss our student-athletes, school and staff program as well.” 

The California Community College Athletic Association has decided to push back its entire sports calendar to the spring season, divided by a modified early and late spring schedule. Basketball, cross country, football, soccer, women’s golf, women’s volleyball, water polo and wrestling comprise the early spring schedule. 

Practices start on Jan. 18 and the first games are set to be played on Feb. 5, with the exception of football, which kicks off a week later. 

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