Five Months After COVID-19 Shut Them Down, The Lady Sharks’ Volleyball Team Can Return To Practice This Week

More than 150 days have passed since the Lady Sharks’ volleyball team last practiced at the Kendall Campus Gibson Center—they will be allowed to return Sunday.

“Going back to [the] routine we are used to is priceless,” said sophomore setter Ana Araujo. “[It’s] a good feeling, getting everything back to normal little by little.”

The National Junior College Athletic Association announced teams can practice this fall between Aug. 15 and Nov. 15 during a meeting with their Board of Regents on July 13. A maximum of five scrimmages against other teams are allowed during the semester. 

Miami Dade College Athletic Director Alysia Dyer and the team’s coaches crafted an action plan for practices. It’s pending final approval by the College’s senior administration, including Executive Vice President and Provost Lenore Rodicio and Interim President Rolando Montoya.

The plan is expected to be finalized in the next couple of weeks and will also be used by the baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s basketball teams. Those teams can start practicing in September.

Although the volleyball team can officially start practicing this Sunday, Head Volleyball Coach Origenes “Kiko” Benoit said they will most likely not start until late August or the first week of September.

“It’s a very delicate situation,” Dyer said. “We made a commitment as an athletic department to the student-athletes to provide them an education and provide them sports [this] season.” 

Under the proposed plan, players and coaches will undergo temperature checks before practices and wear face masks at all times. They must wash their hands during water breaks and change their shoes before entering the gym. 

Hand sanitation stations will be available near the court and all equipment will be disinfected by the coaching staff after practice. The carts that store the team’s volleyballs will alternate daily to avoid using the same equipment on consecutive days. 

To enhance social distancing, only five players will be allowed on each side of the court. However, practice will start with groups of three on each side. The groups will be decided based on where the players live, given that some of them share dorms.

The team will practice Monday through Friday from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. Volleyball drills will take place indoors and will be split into two groups. Each group will have a one-hour session with 20-minute breaks in-between. Conditioning and weight lifting will take place at the track located behind the Gibson Center.

In addition, players must be tested for the virus before the first practice. They are also required to fill out daily health questionnaires. If anyone reports having coronavirus-like symptoms, the entire team must be tested again. Practices will be put on hold if any player tests positive.

Due to travel restrictions in Peru and Brazil, middle blockers Camila Perez and Sara Da Silva will not be available for the first practice sessions. Three sophomores—setter Camila De la Rosa and outside hitters Erika Asencio and Wilma Calmfors, who are currently not in the United States—are expected to arrive in Miami by the end of August.

The players and coaches understand the measures are necessary to keep them safe and assure that the regular season starts as scheduled on Jan. 29. 

“Having sports back is fine with me as long as we follow protocol and we try our best to keep the student-athletes, coaches and personnel safe,” Benoit said. “If we take care of ourselves, hopefully, by January it will be a different story.”