Our Super Coaches Suggest These 3 Player Safety Measures During COVID
The coronavirus pandemic has created an opportunity for esports coaches to reimagine their gaming labs, while ensuring students stay safe
Even as remote learning provides a boon to esports competition across the country, many schools took the necessary precautions to reopen classrooms this fall after the CDC announced its support for in-person education.
As the full scope of the pandemic comes into vision and rising case numbers force learning specialists to discuss the best protocols, for now we're leaning on coaches to help student-athletes stay safe while remaining productive. And while COVID-19 has had a ripple effect on everything from recruiting to the varsity experience of top-tier matchmaking, player safety is priority number one in 2020.
We talked to coaches at several top collegiate esports programs, and here's what they had to say.
Create A Safe Lab
It all starts with hand hygiene and effective face masks. During the hours campus cleaning services are unavailable and students are accessing the lab, PlayVS coaches are stocking an abundant supply of disinfectant and paper towels at each computer station while providing hand sanitizer throughout the room.
Taking the initiative to wipe down all surfaces (keyboards, mice, desktops, monitors) with computer-safe, EPA-registered disinfectant in between sessions will create the safest space possible for your athletes. And of course, the coaches we spoke to advocate six feet (or more) of social distancing and – if available – plexiglass dividers between each gaming rig.
"At UCF we make sure the players are safe, taken care of, and that our spaces are all free of risk," said Annabel Zinn, esports director of the Gaming Knights. "We also include team building resources from the Recreation & Wellness center and access to athletic trainers."
Coach Up Self-Care And Partner With Campus Resources
Our Super Coaches consistently find new ways to develop player outreach in an era of hybrid classes, the potential for frequent time spent alone, and rapidly moving news cycles that can affect student athletes' mental health.
"I think normalizing mental health in esports is important, and it's something people can forget about," said Zinn. "As programs get larger sometimes we push it aside. But we want to make sure students feel comfortable and are interacting socially, and make sure they're not lonely and make it comfortable for them to reach out."
While keeping an open line of communication with players and setting the expectations for team scheduling is effective, you can also create go-to resources ahead of any mental health crises.
"Remember that you are not the expert on mental health, but there are people who are the experts on campus that you can call on," said Callum Fletcher, esports director at Illinois Wesleyan. "If a student and I discuss having a breakdown or struggling with a class, I'll listen and help them as much as I can, but I'll make sure they understand the resources they have like academic services, advising, tutoring and counseling."
Create Team Bonding Experiences AFK
Capping your players' time in the lab will not only assist in combating burnout, but it's also a safety measure that adheres to guidance from top infectious disease experts.
While maintaining an active Discord and Twitch channel will foster team chemistry and provide the requisite updates to keep your players informed, we've also heard that outdoor bonding has gone a long way towards creating a close-knit group.
"One thing that's really worked for us through this whole COVID experience is moving the team from indoor activities to a lot of outdoor activities," said Akron esports director Nate Meeker. "The Zips have gone hiking, they've gone biking. Our team's done a lot of outdoor activity, which in turn feeds back into their physical health and wellbeing and resulted in a positive mark for the team this fall."
To connect with other esports who have discovered how to run a crafty esports program, check out our Super Coach Office Hours.