The grim reality of swine flu is shown through all aspects of campus life here in Geneseo and the athletics department is no different: They have taken every precaution to prevent our athletes from coming down with the virus.
Coaches began their efforts by informing their players of the risks, and starting with basic precautions. "We've discussed personal hygiene and avoiding activities that put them at risk," said women's basketball coach Scott Hemer. "We're trying to do the little things like get our rest and use individual water bottles."
Mike Woods, head coach of the cross-country teams, said that he has always believed, "from the bottom of my soul," that nutrition and rest are directly related to athletic performance. Woods added that swine flu greatly increases the need for athletes to be conscious of how they maintain their bodies.
Concerns about the spread of the disease have even prompted SUNYAC officials to drop the requirement of a post-game handshake between teams, according to women's soccer head coach Nate Wiley. He said that teams opted for a spoken congratulation after games to maintain sportsmanship and limit possible exposure.
Wiley said that his team had two players contract swine flu, one of them being their back-up goaltender. "A field player … gets sick and can't play, you have other players … goalkeeping is a specialized position, so replacing that player becomes a little more difficult," he said, adding that going into the conference championship with one goalie was "a bit nerve-wracking."
Teams are especially at risk to have it spread from one player to the rest of the team, explained Dr. Steven Radi, medical director of Lauderdale Health Center: "The issue with athletes is that they spend so much time together as a team. They travel together, and they have this really tight proximity."
Even in the face of widespread illness, Geneseo's athletes have managed to perform at an extremely high level. The cross-country team has been successful despite many of its top runners contracting the virus; the men's and women's teams both managed to win SUNYAC championships.
"I would say six of the top seven [women] runners have had the flu at one point or another during the season," Woods said. "I was more of a doctor than I've ever been." He also noted that two of the top male runners also came down with the flu.
"With this virus, the problem is that the fevers are lasting three to five, to six, to seven days for some people" Radi said. "As far as athletes are concerned, it really puts them out for a significant period of time."
Blue Wave head coach Paul Dotterweich said he feared what an extended absence during the season could do to a swimmer. "It may not end [their season], but it could ruin it," he said.
Dotterweich went on to explain that just being out of the water for a week can impact a swimmer's performance for the rest season, in addition to the added fatigue that comes from recovering from the disease.
Dotterweich said that he hopes the athletes will "get it out of their system" before the more crucial meets near the end of the season. Players are out of luck if they fall ill at the wrong time, Dotterweich said. "If you're sick at the end of the year, 'Sorry.'"
The Geneseo athletic department is doing its best to keep all of the student-athletes healthy. Nutrition and rest are essential, as Woods said, plus staying away from situations that put them at risk. For our athletes, let's keep those hands washed and sanitized fingers crossed.