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July 7, 2020

Elena Shklyar: Returning to campus

Photo disclaimer: The above photo was taken last season, prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic outbreak

July 7, 2020

Elena Shklyar is a rising junior in the School of Journalism. She is also member of MSU's volleyball team. This is repurposed content from msuspartans.com. Read the original piece here.

June 30 — Two Weeks Back

On June 14, I left my house in Hinsdale, Illinois with a car full of stuff to move back to my apartment in East Lansing. We were finally allowed back on campus! A short three-and-a-half-hour drive, and I would be back at school with all my teammates, living a normal life again.

Except we all know times right now are anything but normal. Being back at campus was refreshing — I loved being home and spending time with my parents and brother, but being back in East Lansing immediately made me happy.

I started getting excited the next day when my whole team got tested for COVID-19. We all went at specific times with our "pods" - a group of about six girls on the team. These pods were arranged based on who you live with to limit exposure as much as possible.

Everything in the building was labeled to help the flow of people. I walked into the doors and up to a table where I was asked questions about if I had any symptoms by a trainer sitting behind a screen. They took my temperature and gave me hand sanitizer before sending me on my way to the indoor turf field to get tested.

The test itself occurred in Duffy, the indoor football turf field. To be honest, it was not anywhere as bad as I expected. It was much quicker than I thought it would take. I heard some mixed opinions from my teammates, but those are my thoughts about it. Once we got tested, we were free to go home.

This is where the hard part begins — we went three months without seeing our teammates, and now we are told we can only see a few of them — only the ones in our pods.

The next week we were supposed to self-quarantine as much as possible. We got our test results back on Wednesday, and our entire team tested negative. We were informed we would be tested again on Monday, June 22 and would all have to test negative again before we are allowed to work out in the facilities.

This week, where I was quarantined was pretty tough for me. Every day I woke up, went to find somewhere to work out with the girls in my pod, then came home and did homework before spending the rest of the afternoon hanging out – again, just with the girls in my pod.

The workouts had to get creative. Everyone had been doing home workouts the past three months and my team had been doing Zoom workouts, so finally being able to get together and run or do a circuit with a teammate was refreshing.

We got tested again the next Monday, and everyone tested negative yet again — great news! That meant we could finally get back into the gym. One step closer to normalcy.

On June 24, we were allowed into the Breslin Center along with the men's and women's basketball teams. We all had separate, scheduled times to work out. Volleyball's time slot is from 3:30-6:30 p.m., and we rotate between three stations within our pods.

We have three, 50-minute sessions, which include time with a net, time in the weight room and time on a practice court without a net. This is very different than the usual summer training we do. Typically, we do open gyms as a full team with more flexibility on times.

Our new process consists of entering the building (staggered 10 minutes between pods) and immediately getting our temperatures taken before heading to the court. We are allowed 50 minutes per station with 10 minutes to clean in between. Cleaning includes wiping down every single volleyball, every box or target we touch and every weight we touch in the weight room. It seemed crazy at first, but it is the new normal for now to stay healthy.

We are doing our best to stay six feet apart when playing on the court, so that eliminates a few drills. But the practices have been great so far — all the groups have really stepped up to plan and take everything incredibly seriously because we all know how lucky and blessed we are to be given the privilege to be allowed back in the gym.

I have loved being back in the gym. Sprinting to chase down a ball to set? Love it. Seeing my teammate get a kill off my set? Love it! Being back in the gym playing the sport I love with the people I love? Love it.

We are just starting our first full week of being back in the gym, and everyone is starting to get the hang of things. Bringing in our dirty practice clothes to get our laundry done, social distancing where we put our backpacks, asking a trainer to fill up our water bottles, getting snack packs because the fuel station is closed and more. It is slowly becoming more natural.

I feel like our entire team is on the same page when it comes to these new rules. Whatever it takes to have a season. We have a goal that we all crave to accomplish, and we must have a season to be able to do that. If that means individually washing each volleyball we touch? Done deal.

By: Elena Shklyar