By Hannah Ostrov
Payton Travis is one of the eight Sports Medicine Student Assistants on the Tulane Green Wave Football team. She is in her second year at this position, and despite the 2020-21 football season being in the midst of a global pandemic, she still manages to thoroughly enjoy her job.
When asked how her job was different in the time of COVID-19, she reported that through the pandemic, she actually got to know all of the players better, as one of her duties is taking everyone’s temperature upon entering the building. As each Sports Medicine student assistant is only assigned a certain part of the team, this new duty allows her to interact with more players on the team, which she appreciates. “I call them my children,” she told me with a huge grin. As a very caring person overall, Ms. Travis feels this job suits her very well.
As a whole, the team really cares about their players. Ms. Travis explained that “something a lot of people do not know is that Tulane asked the players if they wanted to play this season, and the overwhelming reaction from these athletes was, ‘yes, we want to try.’”
But what is Tulane trying to do to make college football work in a pandemic? After all, football players are still college students, despite the rising concerns and required social distancing that come with this global pandemic. With Tulane already at an Action Alert Level Orange and more than 260 students in quarantine at the very beginning of football season, the team’s odds of avoiding infection do not look great. At the end of the day, the football players are still students, and leading up to the first game the whole team developing COVID-19 could start the season off on a very sour note.
While for many students Labor Day weekend is a time to party and socialize with friends, Tulane took this into account when making the Labor Day weekend practice schedule. Thus, the team was kept busy during this weekend, allowing for very little spare time to be spent partying or socializing.
Are these kinds of safety measures working for Green Wave Football? Overall, yes. “Currently, the team has a 100% negative rate of infection going into the beginning of their season,” Ms. Travis remarks proudly.
So, Tulane is trying to make it work. Players get tested 2 times a week or 3 times a week during travel weeks/away games (in comparison to on-campus students who are tested twice a week, off campus students who are tested once a week, and faculty, staff, and graduate students who are tested once a month).
Ms. Travis sees a bright future for how COVID-19 will affect the sports medicine world: “Athletic trainers are medical professionals. A lot of people don’t realize that, but COVID-19 helps the athletic professionals to get the reputation of professionals,” Ms. Travis says. Further, she thinks that paying attention to the athlete as a person and not just as a player will be another effect of COVID-19 that brings revolutionary change to football. Travis believes that this perspective shows that the administration really cares about the players. She disclosed that the players “were bummed that there were not going to be any fans,” so for the first home game, each of the Tulane players were granted just two tickets for each of their family/friends. This way, the stadium can still be empty and safely distanced, and the players will still be able to receive support in-person from their loved ones. These kinds of considerations are what keep the team motivated and wanting to play football.
Is there a future for Tulane football? Ms. Travis does not know, but she is optimistic. She believes the team has a fighting chance, as they are going above and beyond to make it work for the players. “Overall,” Ms. Travis says, “the moral is in these weird and uncertain times, by being as safe and considerate as you can, you can make it work.”