Like a lot of other people dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, Shawn Eddy has for the past six months been facing the challenge of his professional career.
An LSU athletic trainer for 26 years, the 49-year-old Eddy has taken care of the men’s basketball team for the past 14 seasons after previously working with the baseball team.
In that span, however, nothing could have prepared him or any of his colleagues for what they have faced in 2020.
As the men’s basketball trainer, Eddy is responsible for the health, safety and well-being of 43 people associated with Will Wade’s team — coaches, players and the entire support staff — as they go through uncharted territory.
His job to try to make sure the chances of contracting the virus are mitigated becomes even more important this week with the Tigers set to begin the season on Thanksgiving Day against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at the Billiken Classic in St. Louis.
“It’s a lot of work,” Eddy said. “Just watching, observing and being part of it, everything is normal until you either have a case — or a potential case — and everything stops.”
The game changes, he said, with contact tracing, quarantining and isolation.
The LSU basketball team won’t be opening its season in Nebraska after all.
Food has to be delivered to affected parties and there are other things to take care of, which makes it difficult to perform the usual day-to-day orthopedic duties and health care athletes require from their trainer.
“I had to cancel a rehab session recently to take care of something else,” Eddy said.
It all started in late June when the players, who had been away since last season was abruptly halted in mid-March, returned to campus to begin preparing for this season.
It began, Eddy said, with three groups of players arriving every couple of weeks for quarantining, antibody testing and light workouts with strength and conditioning coach Greg Goldin.
That continued through the end of July when nasal swabbing started after the 15-player squad had gotten back together. There were temperature checks, symptom checks and individual workouts with small groups that were socially distanced.
The initial testing protocol included 50% of the team and 25% of the staff. Each player was tested twice a month, which increased to once a week for everyone when preseason practice officially began on Oct. 14.
Eddy said all nonplayers — from coaches, to support staff, to student managers — are required to wear masks at all times in the practice facility to help mitigate the virus.
“We tried to get the players to wear gaiters,” he said, “but that lasted about 10 minutes.”
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Privacy laws prevented Eddy from providing specifics, but he said the measures have worked for the most part.
“We have not had any problems,” he said. “We haven’t had to shut down or cancel practice, or anything like that.”
“Our guys have done a great job adhering to our policies with socially distancing. That’s probably our biggest challenge we’ve had to deal with: like making sure they wear a mask, hanging out with a smaller group of friends. We talk a lot about reducing things.”
With the season comes a new set of challenges with protocols established by the Southeastern Conference. Starting with this past week, players are required to test three times a week.
LSU was scheduled to be tested a fourth time this week before a multi-team event in Lincoln, Nebraska, but Wade decided not to participate after Saint Louis withdrew from the tournament. Instead, the Tigers will play SIUE on Thursday and Saint Louis on Saturday.
Eddy’s work will expand when LSU’s home schedule starts because everyone involved with game day operations will need to be tested.
It’s just another part of his ever-expanding duties.
“We’re doing our best like everybody else to mitigate the virus and keep guys on the floor to practice and keep a team on the floor to compete,” Eddy said. “That’s with anything … injuries or the virus. We’re not dealing with anything no one else is across the country.”