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PLT Insights: Athletic Director Ryan Bowles on Sports During COVID and Oles Against Inequality

To get insights for the student body, BORSC member Bergen Senf ’24 regularly meets with Athletic Director and PLT member Ryan Bowles. PLT is the Presidential Leadership Team of St. Olaf College, learn more here. Submit your own questions here.

On Monday, March 8th, Bergen Senf ‘24 met with Athletic Director Ryan Bowles to get an update on the Athletic Department. Last week, the Athletic Department announced St. Olaf’s intention to compete this spring following the MIAC’s approval of plans to move forward with spring and fall sports. AD Bowles shared his excitement about Ole athletics’ return to competition and his confidence in the department’s ability to do so while maintaining the health and safety of the St. Olaf community. Throughout the pandemic, the Athletic Department has been working in tandem with college leadership. After a learning period during the fall semester, AD Bowles is confident that the mitigation tools (masking, social distancing, testing, etc.) in place will ensure a successful spring semester of athletics.

One of the precautions the Athletic Department has implemented is its Return to Play Policy, which is built around the guidelines of St. Olaf College, the MIAC, and the NCAA. It is NCAA policy that all athletes that have tested positive for COVID-19 must complete an EKG test to screen for lasting complications of the virus before returning to competition. In the instance that an athlete is required to undergo an EKG test, the Athletic Department works with medical staff to help the individual complete the process. At this time, the department is not assisting with the cost of the test and has no plans to do so in the future.

With the return to competition, many in the St. Olaf community are awaiting information on the spectator policy at athletic events. AD Bowles shared that for outdoor events at St. Olaf facilities, only St. Olaf students will be able to attend. This decision was made to best preserve the integrity of the campus “bubble.” For indoor events, there will be no spectators, per MIAC policy. For events at non-St. Olaf facilities, each hosting institution will have their own policy for spectators.

The upcoming competition season will be an unprecedented experience for all student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and fans of St. Olaf athletics. AD Bowles commented on the resiliency and adaptivity that the St. Olaf community displayed throughout the course of the pandemic, and looks to the upcoming competition season with that same attitude. However, the Athletic Department is mindful of the new challenges, on and off the field, that come with navigating life during COVID-19. AD Bowles is working with coaches on being communicative and attentive to their athletes. For many fall athletes, this spring season will be a completely different experience. Specifically, conversations in the department are focusing on recognizing the benefits of rest and managing time demands, while striving for excellence in competition and in the classroom.

Finally, AD Bowles reflected on the accomplishments of OAI (Oles Against Inequality) over the past year. Since getting off the ground this past summer, OAI has established multiple committees composed of student-athlete representatives of all sports teams. Focus areas of OAI include the recruiting practices of the Athletics Department, setting bylaws for demonstrating and protesting during competition, and facilitating conversations within the athletic community about issues of inequality. Recently, AD Bowles and the entire athletic staff has met multiple times with OAI leadership to discuss a variety of projects and initiatives. Bowles proudly stated his support for OAI and looks forward to continuing the department’s partnership with the organization.

f you have any questions you would like to brought to Ryan Bowles or any of the PLT members, you can submit them here.

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