The Minnesota Blades are a triple-A hockey club that is currently participating in their summer season. They understand the risks that come with playing a contact sport during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they also know the importance of allowing their players to be active, play the sport they love, and be around their teammates. That’s why they have come up with an easy-to-execute strategy using the SportsEngine mobile app to help do their part in keeping everyone safe.
Jim Dahline, one of the 2011 team’s coaches and the Director of Product Marketing at SportsEngine, along with their other coaches, had discussions about what they can do to try and keep their players safe, and one day they realized the answer was right in front of them - using the SportsEngine mobile app for contact tracing.
Contact tracing is a method used by the CDC and other health organizations to figure out who an infected person may have come in contact with while they were contagious. The Blades coaching staff has been able to use the RSVP function in the mobile app to contact trace members of their team by diligently marking who all practiced together and on which days.
“We are pretty diligent about using the mobile app to know who is going to be at our games and practices,” Dahline began. “It’s a great way to help us to practice plan, knowing how many players we are going to have showing up. The entire coaching group relies on attendance tracking and RSVPs religiously.”
Since they have been having their players check in as a yes or no on all the practices and games they attend, they are able to quickly go back and see when the last time an infected player was a part of a team activity. This was critically valuable when they did have a player on their team test positive for Covid in early July.
Refining Their Methods
The coaching staff knew that utilizing the RSVP function in the SportsEngine mobile app was a good start to doing their part in keeping their players safe, but they wanted to take it a step further. Dahline went out and bought a non-contact thermometer, and takes the temperature of all the players when they get ready outside the arena before any team events.
The Minnesota Department of Health says that if you are taking temperatures as a way to check for COVID-19 symptoms that you should look for 99.5 degrees because thermometers are not always precise and by setting the mark that low you decrease the risk of missing a low grade fever, and that is what the coaches do. If a player records a temperature of 99.5 or higher they can sit back for a little while and get tested again. If they once again surpass that mark then they are not allowed to participate in the team activity.
The team’s coaches will then make sure the players are marked as being present at that game or practice once they get their temperature checked. They also look to see if there are any players marked as being there who are actually absent to make sure their records are as up to date as possible.
“There are times where a kid would mark maybe, or no, or just not respond, so we make it super clear and change it,” Dahline explained. “Then I go back and make sure that not only people who said no are added as yes, but also if someone says yes and didn’t show up, I move that to no. Anybody that’s on the ice, any of our coaches, all our players, get marked on this.”
When Their Methods Were Needed
Dahline received a phone call from one of their player’s parents on July 7 saying the player had tested positive for COVID-19. That is not something anybody wants to hear, but, because the coaching staff had been so diligent in their tracking, they were able to go back and see when that player last participated with the team.
A quick look at TeamCenter on their website showed that the player last practiced on June 30, one week before the positive test. Dahline was then able to send out an email to the rest of the team’s parents to tell them that information, and then he allowed them to decide what was best for their kids.
“I personally am not providing any medical advice or any guidance, I am just providing matter of fact,” Dahline said. “Go to the mobile app and look back, his last day was June 30, the player tested positive July 7, watch for signs, and he will be able to be back after the 17th (per the guidelines set by the Minnesota Department of Health), reach out if you have any questions. It’s really a mechanism where as a coach we are using this to do everything we can.”
Dahline and the rest of the Blades coaching staff know this is not a be-all-end-all solution for stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus. They do not know who their players are coming in contact with outside of team activities, but they believe this is a great way to help keep their players safe when the team is together.
It’s a non-intrusive, detail-oriented method that is easy to implicate, and the parents all seem to really appreciate the effort they have put forth.
“Is it stopping COVID transmissions? No,” Dahline said when talking about the method they have implemented. “Have we had any more (cases)? We have not. Is it because of this? I don’t think so. Are we doing our part at our practices to make sure people aren’t there and being infectious? Absolutely.