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The USCAH Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework | Part 3 & 4: Creating a New Normal—Personnel Development and Training, Programming and Education

This is part three in a six-part series focused on returning to sport. For Part 1 of our six-part series, find The USCAH Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework | Part 1: Creating a New Normal—Facilitating a Change in Culture document here and Part 2, Creating a New Normal - Facility Preparation and Management, Medical Facilities and Campus Facilities here

Category 3:     Personnel Development and Training—Medical Personnel, Coaches and Staff

Category 4:     Programming and Education—Medical Personnel, Students, Coaches and Staff

Over the past two weeks the U.S Council for Athlete’s Health (USCAH) introduced the USCAH Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework. This Framework establishes six categories to ensure your institution has a plan, a roadmap to follow, to ensure you are ready to begin the cultural change in sport healthcare once campuses are opened for the return of students and staff and for a return to sport participation.

The six categories of the USCAH Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework are as follows:

Category 1:  Return to Campus Protocols—Healthcare Staff, Student Athletes, Coaches and Staff

Category 2:   Facility Preparation and Management—Medical Facilities and Campus Facilities

Category 3:  Personnel Development and Training—Healthcare Personnel, Coaches and Staff

Category 4:  Programming and Education—Healthcare Personnel, Students, Coaches and Staff

Category 5:  Training and Practice Modifications—General and Sport Specific

Category 6:   Sustaining Cultural Change—Programming to ensure the New Normal remains

Our initial discussion two weeks ago centered on Category 1: Return to Campus Protocols—Healthcare Staff, Student Athletes, Coaches and Staff. In those discussions we introduced the fundamental components, the metrics of the return to sport, that will be used to provide specific and direct discussion for each of the six categories. These components provide the foundation for discussion: 

  • Personnel and Programming
  • Testing and Monitoring
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Social Distancing
  • Personal and Group Hygiene
  • Quarantine Procedures

Last week we introduced USCAH Category 2: Facility Preparation and Management—Medical Facilities and Campus Facilities. Using the six components above we added to the Framework and identified the facility preparation and management conditions necessary for a gradual return to participation. 

We stressed the importance of maintaining personal responsibility to live according to these guidelines in every situation, but also to work critically and innovatively to overcome this crisis and to grow daily. These concepts will only be successful if everyone—student athletes, coaches, healthcare staff and all athletic department staff---adhere to the guidelines.

Checklists for Category 1 and 2 were also provided to assist and guide your preparations. Find the Category 1 Checklist here. Find the Category 2 Checklist here

This week we introduce part three in the series, Categories 3 and 4, where our focus in this discussion will center on the development and training of personnel and the programming and education provided to healthcare professionals, student athletes, coaches and staff. 

In an instance a game can change. We have all witnessed it in college athletics--the moment where the perfect call for the perfect situation dramatically changes the outcome of a game.  We have seen it on the fields and the courts, at the arenas, pools and tracks.  We have seen it at every athletic venue and in every sport. We have witnessed the game changing call, the game changing effort by student athletes, the celebration of the fans and the sighs of relief on the sidelines. 

In these moments we know that what we have witnessed is the culmination of weeks, months, and in some cases years, of training, practice, repetition, development, mastery, and growth. And on the very rare occasion we may witness something truly exceptional and almost beyond belief. We witness the moment in time that doesn’t just change the outcome of the contest it forever changes the course the program will travel. 

We can view those single moments in the games as the culmination of the efforts of everyone associated with the program—student athletes, coaches, administration, parents and healthcare staff. A single play that changes our program forever.  From game changer to program changer.  In the simplest sense we see the culture change.

In an instance our game has changed. We have never witnessed this before in college athletics—a moment where the games are no longer played. The fields and courts are empty and so too are the arenas and pools and tracks. Every athletic venue in every sport sits empty. There are no perfect situations or perfect plays to be called. There are no cheers in the seats nor sighs of relief on the sidelines.

In these moments COVID-19 is redefining our actions, behaviors, and lives in unprecedented ways. Its impact was instant and now the culmination of recent weeks and months has created exceptional times. We are witnessing and participating in moments of time that don’t just change the outcome of the contest these moments change the courses our programs will forever travel.

Over the past two weeks, colleges, universities and conferences across the nation have announced a return of student athletes to campus and a return to sport participation.  Without question, a multidisciplinary approach with experts from various areas will be tasked with implementing the framework of a return to campus roadmap created by and in conjunction with institutional leadership. Navigating the roadmap as your healthcare staff, student athletes, coaches and staff return to campus will bring about what we refer to as the Standards of the New Normal.

As education and healthcare leaders we continue the difficult task of preparing for the return of student athletes and staff to campus and, of course, the return to sport as soon as the first weeks of June. Our return to sport is still guided by the answers to the three questions below that we daily address in our preparations for the return of students and staff.

  • How can we slow the spread?
  • How do we ensure we have a safe home, safe environment, and a safe campus?
  • How soon can we resume sport participation?

Now we must add additional questions as we prepare for the return of sport participation.

  • Have we invested in our healthcare professionals, coaches, and staff to ensure they are prepared for a return of student athletes to campus?
  • Have we developed and implemented education and programming for our healthcare professionals, students, coaches, and staff to ensure the return to sport participation will be safe?

Our objective is to create a framework that provides conditions for a gradual return to participation. It is our personal responsibility to live according to these guidelines in every situation, but also to work critically and innovatively to overcome this crisis and to grow daily. This concept will only be successful if everyone—student athletes, coaches, healthcare staff and all athletic department staff—adhere to the guidelines.

With the implementation of the framework we hope to achieve a gradual resumption of normal training and later competition and to control the spread of coronavirus. To do so, requires a commitment to personnel and programming concepts that must include the prevailing and periodically amended best practices. In the simplest sense, we want to ensure:

  • You have identified your essential personnel and ensured they have received the necessary and mandatory education and preparation for a return of student athletes, coaches, and staff.
  • You have developed and implemented appropriate policies and procedures for a COVID-19 environment to ensure your healthcare staff, student athletes, and coaches are safe.
  • Essential personnel have been provided training and education for PPE, hygiene, social distancing, symptom monitoring, and reporting.
  • Testing and monitoring policies, protocols and best practices are implemented.
  • Risk mitigation protocols have been reviewed and approved by institution administration, legal counsel, and state agencies where applicable.
  • Education has been provided to healthcare staff, student athletes and coaches regarding COVID-19 recommendations and guidelines from the institution, conference, state agencies and national governing bodies.
  • Quarantine protocols are implemented and quarantine facilities have been prepared.
  • All personnel are educated on the Standards of the New Normal for facility preparation, student athlete training, coach access and proximity to student athletes, and the provision of medical treatments and general healthcare.
  • Education and programming meet the following criteria guidelines
    • Specific and relevant to each target group
    • Consistently applied to all groups
    • Transparent and available to all
    • Includes assessment to ensure content mastery
    • Attestation

Without question, institutional commitment to personnel and programming is paramount to the success of the safe return to sport participation and the sustainability of cultural change.

On the personnel side, the most critical component is the activation of the Athletics COVID-19 Action Team. This team will connect with and adhere to local, state, and federal and international guidelines. 

From a programming perspective, education is the foundation—education modules must be provided for review by all student athletes, coaches, and staff prior to a return to campus. Once on campus training resumes, healthcare professionals and department staff must ensure the education process is ongoing to meet the ever-evolving and most current requirements and best practices for the control of COVID-19. 

A return to campus and a return to sport participation require an instant change in the culture of sport. We must focus on health care personnel and programming— the personnel who will provide healthcare and the programming in place to ensure the safety and wellness of the student athletes, coaches, staff, and the healthcare providers. Creating a new normal and facilitating a change in culture can and will take place with the implementation of the USCAH recommendations and by following the guidelines and checklists provided by the USCAH experts. 

From game changer to program changer—with the right programming and personnel calls, with the culmination of efforts of everyone associated with your athletic programs at your college or university you can set the new course to change your programs forever. Healthcare staff, student athletes, coaches, parents, and administration will all be game changers as we safely return to sport participation on our colleges and campuses. 

The experts at the U.S. Council for Athletes Health have included a comprehensive checklist to provide guidance for:

The USCAH Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework

Category 3:  Personnel Development and Training—Medical Personnel, Coaches and Staff

Category 4:  Programming and Education—Medical Personnel, Students, Coaches and Staff

For Part 1  and 2 of our six-part series, find The USCAH Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework | Part 1: Creating a New Normal—Facilitating a Change in Culture document here.

For additional information and programming to ensure your institution is prepared for a return to campus and a return to sport contact and collaborate with USCAH.

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