It was still dark outside when Kwaku O. Adubofour ’24 trudged out of his dorm room in Eliot House at 5:20 a.m. Monday morning and headed across the Charles River. Wearing a blue surgeon mask, he arrived at the football field in time for a 6 a.m. team workout — his first as a Harvard football player.
Student athletes living on campus like Adubofour partook in their first team workouts on Monday in accordance with a phased approach rolled out by Harvard Athletics to reintroduce athletic activity to students on campus.
In Phase One, Harvard is permitting athletes to meet with their teammates and coaches for up to an hour of strength and conditioning training per day, during which they must wear a mask and keep at least six feet apart. Student athletes living off campus are not allowed to participate, according to College spokesperson Rachael Dane.
“In partnership with the Ivy League and [Harvard University Health Services], a phased return to athletic activity plan has been developed to protect the health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, administrative staff, and Harvard community, in accordance with the NCAA Resocialization Plan of College Sport,” Dane wrote in an email. “Our phased reopening is not in preparation for competition, but is designed to provide a structure, monitored health and wellness opportunity for student-athletes.”
Teams that practiced on Monday did a combination of conditioning drills on the athletics fields and weight lifting exercises inside the Palmer Dixon Strength and Conditioning Center.
Athletes described having to maintain distance from their teammates as awkward, and having to wear a mask while exercising as uncomfortable. Still, they said they were grateful and excited for the opportunity to train and be together with their teammates.
Women’s water polo player Ella K. Prentice ’24 said she felt “really safe” while working out with her teammates Monday.
“We were wearing masks the whole time and were always six feet apart. For lifting we all have our own stations so we are all at our own rack and there’s a box of tape around the rack that was ours. And the weights we cleaned pretty frequently between every use,” she said. “There was a bucket of disinfectant wipes in our box and so I would go pick up my weights, lift, and then wipe them down and put them back.”
On Tuesday morning, Prentice and her four teammates on campus will use the Blodgett Pool, where she said they will each swim in their own lane.
Baseball player Jay T. Driver ’24 also described the procedures as meticulously organized.
“We had to wipe everything we touched down, like pencils and everything we use, and we did the hand sanitizer on the way in and the way out. So we definitely were keeping up with the cleaning.”
“It is a little tedious, but it was worth it,” he added. “We were willing to do whatever it takes to get back in there and be able to do stuff.”
Women’s tennis player Mihaela L. Marculescu ’23 said she and other athletes will get used to the new conditions.
“It definitely feels a little bit uncomfortable because you start sweating and it’s pretty hard to breathe. But it’s also like, those are the conditions, so we have to adapt. And I’m grateful and I think the others are too,” she said. “Because it could’ve been worse; we could have been just stuck in our rooms doing nothing.”
Baseball player Uday P. Narottam ’24 also said he and his teammates brought “a lot of energy” to the session despite the unusual circumstances.
“It was a little weird being socially distant while we work out. You can’t high five or anything,” he said. “We’re all still cheering each other on, yelling at each other when we can in between our sets. In between our reps, we’ll all clap super loudly.”
Despite waking up at 5 a.m., Adubofour said he felt energized after the workout.
“Even though I only slept a couple hours and had worked out I had a lot of energy after,” he said. “It just felt really nice to finally have the entire team in one spot. It was just really exciting.”
And while perhaps unusual, Adubofour added Monday’s workout was legitimate.
“It felt like it was Division I football,” he said.
If Phase One of athletic activity proceeds smoothly, Dane, the Harvard spokesperson, said Phase Two can begin as early as October 5. During the next phase, teams will be allowed to do sport-specific work for up to two hours per day.
Also on Monday, Harvard reopened the Malkin Athletic Center to all students on campus. Students can use the pool, weight room, or cardio room by signing up for a time slot in advance, which allows staff to disinfect the equipment in between usage.