Interview with Wade Peitersen, 01/06/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐GL: This is Grace Lim interviewing Wade Peitersen on Thursday, January 6, 2022. For Campus COVID Stories. Campus COVID Stories is a collection of oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh about their experiences in the time of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Before we get started, could you please state your name and spell it for us?

WP: Wade Peitersen, W-A-D-E and Peitersen is P-E-I-T-E-R-S-E-N.

GL: Now for the purposes of getting good audio recording, tell us again who you are and what your title is here at UW Oshkosh.

WP: Wade Peitersen, and I'm the Director of Sports Medicine here at UW Oshkosh.

GL: And before we dive into your Campus COVID Story, we'd like to get to the to know you a little better. Tell me where you grew up.


WP: I'm originally from Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

GL: And how far is that from UW Oshkosh?

WP: About an hour away?

GL: Okay, and where did you earn your degree or degrees?

WP: So I got my undergraduate degree here at UW Oshkosh in physical education. And then I went on to graduate school to earn a degree in sports medicine at Western Michigan University over in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

GL: And when did you earn your bachelor's degree here?

WP: That was back in 1994.

GL: Okay, and how did you come to work at UW Oshkosh?

WP: So, originally, after graduate school, I accepted a position here in Oshkosh, and it was a physical therapy performance enhancement clinic. And I was 00:02:00director of sports performance and did a lot with physical therapy and taking patients from physical therapy and doing rehabilitation, but getting them back to more normalcy and, and then after that, two years, I ended up going to UW Stevens Point. My time at UW Oshkosh I was a athletic training student. And I enjoyed the division three NCAA experience. And so I always knew that I wanted to get back to Division Three and ended up at UW Stevens Point for two years. And then came here in fall of 1999. I believe. And so that's how, you know, came 00:03:00back here to UW Oshkosh. And it's been a wonderful ride. A lot of great experiences and getting to know a lot of different people and a lot of different athletes that are still friends today.

GL: So what was your what was your position in 1999 here?

WP: Director of Sports Medicine.

GL: Okay. Alright, so, pre COVID, tell me what your job entailed.

WP: So basically, we have 19 Different intercollegiate athletic sports. And approximately on given the year, you know, 550, maybe up to 600 different athletes that we work with. And my primary job is to direct the healthcare and 00:04:00oversee the health care of all our athletes and their injuries, making sure that they're taken care of. It could be something simple, like an ankle sprain, that we can take care of right in the athletic training room and do the rehabilitation there and get them back to play. But it could be something more severe and where we need to get a physician involved. And Dr. Patrick McKenzie is our team orthopedic doctor, and he comes to campus every Tuesday. We're pretty fortunate because he's also the Green Bay Packers medical director and team orthopedic surgeon, so I work very closely with him. And prior to the pandemic, every Tuesday we would have he would see patients, not only our athletes from the university, but people from the community and on a given Tuesday we could see 30 to 40 patients. And in the depending on what he would 00:05:00want, I would get those athletes set up for diagnostic exams like MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, if he would want them to see another specialist, I would get them scheduled to see that healthcare specialist for their ankle injury or for their hip injury. And, and then the other things surgery in such situations, I would get them set up for surgery, and transcribe all Dr. Mackenzie's notes and do some of that kind of stuff, work with insurance companies preauthorizing different tests, and so forth. So our goal here is high quality and efficient health care for our athletes. And we want to be able to get that answer as soon as possible for them and get that answer also to our coach to and so that 00:06:00everybody knows what's going on what direction we're headed. And hopefully, we're getting them back to the court back onto the field as soon as possible, to give us the best advantage of winning in a game. And so.

GL: How many people are in your department?

WP: So I oversee currently, we have four other athletic trainers.

GL: And then how's it possible that UW Oshkosh can retain, or you know Dr. Mackenzie?

WP: Um, he's been, he started the year before I got here. And, and I had known him prior to me coming here, and he was a big influence on me coming here. You know, my work to UW Stevens Point. Then come in here, it was a drastic change, 00:07:00you know, at point, we took some time to get some answers and so forth. We had really good physicians that we worked with there. But you know, we went more through the formal process here. It's sports medicine, and we've really want to take the steps to get those exams done as soon as possible and get the answers as soon as possible. So it's not unusual that on a Tuesday, they saw Dr. McKenzie, on Wednesday, we're getting the MRI getting our answers. And if it's something like a simple meniscal tear, they may be in surgery already on Thursday. You know, because we want to try to get them back as soon as possible. And give us that that advantage.

GL: Does the university paid Dr. McKenzie or is that through the student's insurance?


WP: We do not pay Dr. McKenzie. He comes down here voluntarily. And but the one thing if exams are needed, then that does go through the student's health insurance. And again, you know, with their health insurance, that kind of dictates where they go. But initially, we want to be consistent with our health care and have consistent answers. So you may have a health care insurance that you have to go back to Illinois for but we're still going to have you see Dr. McKenzie here. So we kind of get his take, and they may go back to Illinois to get that MRI. But then, you know, nowadays we have technology that they can still follow up with Dr. McKenzie and know what's going on before we set them up with a provider back in Illinois to take care of the situation.


GL: Again before COVID Did you and your athletic trainers work with students during the week?

WP: Yes. So basically, I also teach within our Athletic Training Education program. And so I teach nine credits on an annual basis. And those classes that, I've taught a variety of different classes, but you know, lower extremity injury, treatment and evaluation, upper extremity treatment evaluation, beginning therapeutic exercise, advanced therapeutic exercise, administration of athletic training. So I've taught a fair amount of classes here on campus. And so that was part of my responsibilities. Those usually in the mornings, and then 00:10:00in the afternoons, starting at about 12:30 going to about 6:30. We would work with our athletes and do rehabilitation, evaluate injuries, recover practices, recover events. And for me personally, I mean, through the years, everybody's been assigned a team, and to overlook the health care of that team. And for me I mean, through the years, it was football, men's basketball, baseball. But now currently I take care of in prior to just prior to the pandemic, I take care of cross country, women's golf, gymnastics, and the distance runners in track, so those are my primary sports that I take care of. And, but I do get involved with 00:11:00the health care of all those other teams. And so if there's an injury in football, that's relayed to me that's more severe I'll get the ball rolling and get them set up for an appointment to see Dr. McKenzie it may not be on a Tuesday, it may be on Monday, and after the weekend game or something like that, that we need to get those answers as soon as possible. And so yeah.

GL: Okay. Well, let's move to the early days of COVID. Do you remember the first time you heard about COVID-19?

WP: Yeah, we were just prior to leaving for Texas with women's gymnastics. And that would have been in that was in early February, the week before between 00:12:00interim and second semester. And it's when we went down to Texas, but we had heard about it. Just prior to that. Obviously, it wasn't hitting our country or anything like that. But when we were down in Texas, watching the news, that's when we oh, wow. Okay, we just flew into Dallas, and some people are testing positive down in, in Dallas area. And it's like, oh, great. Okay, you know, didn't really think too much of it. But that's the first time that I was kind of, you know, woke me up a little bit. And is this going to be a problem or not? Or is it just gonna be like some of the other ones where you hear about them, and they don't eventually affect you at all.

GL: And then when did it hit you that this is actually something we need to 00:13:00think about more be a little worried about?

WP: I guess it was still kind of up in the air. But when athletic events started shutting down, so I know a lot of basketball tournaments were going on at the time, conference basketball tournaments. And I'm a big Marquette basketball fan. And when they were out in New York at Madison Square Garden playing in the Big East Conference tournament, that's, you know, and they shut that down, that kind of started waking up a little bit more like okay, what's going on here? And then, of course, we started hearing more about it around school, and our gymnastics team had won the West regionals and had qualified for nationals. And 00:14:00we were all getting prepared to go out to New York for the national championship. And, you know, when all this started transpiring, we had to start looking at everything and you know, the seriousness of everything, and that we had to cancel our trip to Nationals. You know, everything started shutting down out there seemed like the big cities like New York were the ones that were getting hit and, and kind of telling the story of what was to come to our area and so forth. And so that's when it really started hitting home a little bit more. And when hospitals started filling up and elective surgeries started shutting down. We were fortunate on our final day that we before the actual shutdown where everybody was told to go home. We were able to get one of our gymnasts in from Colorado and Dr. Mackenzie got her surgery and before she was, 00:15:00you know, before she went home, and that's when it really started hitting me a little bit more.

GL: So the women's gymnastics had their chance for the National Championship canceled. Do you remember? Were you with them when the news was?

WP: Yeah, it was very emotional time. You know, we had some senior gymnasts that have had done some very good things in the past, won some titles and so forth. And this was supposed to be the last chapter of their career. And unfortunately, we were never able to write that chapter. So it just felt incomplete. And you felt sorry. And sad for those individuals. And, you know, I wish we could come back and do it all over again and give them that opportunity. But you know, it, 00:16:00it was very emotional. And when we actually made the final call, Darryl Sims, our athletic director was the one that came on in and spoke to the team and broke the news to them. And there were a lot of tears shed that that afternoon. But, you know, I think everybody understood the reason why to.

GL: So when we were shut down, I mean, were you given advance notice? I mean, what did you say to your, your own, you know, team?

WP: Well, I mean, I guess another story I can tell you, too, is like our women's basketball team was in the NCAA tournament, and they were over in Holland, Michigan, getting prepared to play over at Hope College. And so the bus had arrived over there. And all this was hitting and, and I remember the TV being on 00:17:00in the athletic training room. And that's when the Big East Tournament was being canceled and other conference tournaments being canceled. And then they just said, you know, I believe, I think the chancellor came out, say, hey, we're not going to be traveling anywhere. But if you're already out there, you know, see, stay put right now and kind of see where we're at. But if you come back to campus, no one's going to be leaving campus. So we're trying to make that determination. Do we stay over in Holland, Michigan? And, you know, and see if the games can go on? Or do we turn around and come back? And eventually, you know, we knew things weren't going to be going on. So they had to come on back and never played a game over there. But.

GL: Were you on that bus with them?


WP: No, I wasn't. One of my assistants was and, and then it was, what do we do those types of things. And one person that I ended up working very closely with, during this pandemic, time to develop policies and procedures, was our assistant athletic director, Victoria Stimac, and she was on the bus with them, and, you know, trying to figure out what to do. And we were conversing back and forth. And eventually, everything was shut down.

GL: What happened to your department, I mean your job, when the department I mean, when the university sent the students home, and also the non-essential to the running of the university, people home.

WP: Basically, I took everything from my office and put it into my vehicle, and 00:19:00computers, printers, scanners, and everything, that, that I would need. Fortunately, at the time, from a teaching perspective, I just had online courses. So I do teach the medical terminology course and that's all online. And I had three sections of that for the semester. So for me, it didn't really affect me from a teaching standpoint, because everything was online. But from an athletic training standpoint, and all the athletes that we were treating and so forth, we had to develop a game plan. And so I had all my assistants, you know, reach out to their different athletes. And we, we started doing things virtually, you know, really got acquainted with Microsoft Teams. And I was talking about a gymnast earlier, you know, she would get on Microsoft Teams, I'd 00:20:00invite her. And then in my home downstairs, I would get some exercise equipment and, and, you know, hey, this is what I want you to do and show it to her, virtually and have her do it. And then I would watch form and technique, and you know, tried to do some corrections. But we tried to keep everything going throughout the rest of that semester, spring semester in 2020. And so it was, it actually wasn't that bad. But, you know, it was a little bit more work involved. And the good news was, you know, everything was shut down. So we didn't have injuries taking place. And so we didn't have anything new. It was just trying to pick up the pieces of those that were injured, and we had to get back. So.


GL: How many student athletes, were you rehabbing in that in that fashion?

WP: I was probably doing somewhere in that six to 10 range. And everybody else was, you know, probably in that same ballpark.

GL: And this is we're talking mid-March to the end of the semester?

WP: Yeah. Till May.

GL: And what did you do during the summer?

WP: Well, the NCAA, we were waiting and waiting, you know, what their response was going to be to all this stuff. And, and so that summer, I was involved and asked to be part of the university implementation team for athletics. So Darryl Sims, Victoria Stimac, and myself, kind of headed up our the athletic portion of 00:22:00that, that team. And we were involved with meetings, you know, through the university through Microsoft Teams, and then eventually putting together the Titan Return policies for athletics. And that's where Vicki and myself really had to sit down and start thinking about everything. And the NCAA then came out with their first version of the resocialization to collegiate sport document, things that you should be considering when bringing your athletes back and safely and other preventative measures. So from a medical standpoint, I had put together all those policies and procedures of how we are going to do everything, you know, from temperature checks, to testing, and all those types of things. 00:23:00Vicky kind of put together more of the game day protocol and looking at different sports and what we were going to do to keep them safe. And so, you know, from, she would look more at the football event or look at the track, or I should say, cross country or soccer event, we were kind of more or less concentrating on fall sports. And so we put a lot of time and effort. I mean, I will tell you that that summer, it seemed like every day we were on Zoom meetings, from eight in the morning till four at night and then I would take about two hours out to see my family and maybe get a little sunshine outside and get something to eat. But then, you know, once but seven o'clock hit, I was back 00:24:00working on policies and going to bed or on 10 o'clock at night and doing the same thing over and over again. Even on the weekends, and because everything was basically still shut down. So a lot of work that summer.

GL: Are you talking about the Recovery Task Force? Are you were you a member of that? Does that.

WP: University. I guess I always call it the university implementation team, but I think it was more the Titan return or Titan recovery. Yeah. Team.

GL: So what kind of research were you doing? I mean, is that in your wheelhouse of skill set? You're an athletic trainer and the instructor.

WP: Yes. Um, I mean, from the medical standpoint of things, obviously, there was 00:25:00research that we had to do and learn some things about, but on the most part, I was pretty familiar with many of the things. And, and a lot of it, you know, when you kind of look back at it, it was more or less common-sense type of stuff, and but trying to really detail it and pick it apart. And, you know, at the beginning, you know, I remember my wife coming home and, and washing all the food, and, you know, but eventually we, we realize it was more of an airborne transmission and respiratory problem than it was more contact. And, and so but we had to put that in, you know, putting together the gymnastics portion. You know, after one team gets done on event, we would clean the mats and those types 00:26:00of things and allow them to dry and be safe for the next team that was going to be competing at that event. And, you know, what are we going to do to ensure health and safety at a practice? So when the football players would come on in for practice, we were going to have them stop the door, ask, you know, do you have any COVID symptoms? Do a temperature check, and then make sure that they're they were being tested and the, with negative tests coming in the door. And so we had to have somebody there recording all that, and, you know, keeping track of all that, that kind of stuff.

GL: How were you able to do that? Just, you know, you have what 80-90 football players?


WP: Sometimes I wish but I mean, at the beginning of the year, we had probably 140 to 150. And, and so, yeah, I mean, myself, and the rest of my staff were doing overtime. And, you know, going into that year, too we didn't know, you know, what was going to be taking place. And so and we had heard about the furloughs and all that that possibly could be coming because of the shutdown. And so we looked at, okay, what are some other things that we can do to avoid possible furloughs and, you know, still have a paycheck coming in. And so, my assistant, Jennifer Zuberbier, I had talked to her, and we all did the contact 00:28:00tracing courses, but I recommended her as a contact tracer here for the university. So I know that August, she worked for the Winnebago County to learn all the contact tracing, so that when we came back to school in September, she then was, I guess, promoted to disease investigator and was one of the four disease investigators. And it was, you know, something because I'm thinking, okay, how do I keep, you know, a paycheck coming in for Jenn if we don't have sports? And so that turned into a full-time job plus, on its own, and, you know, when we didn't have sports, but myself, Jack Johnson, you know, we were going to do testing and help out with testing that was needed and so forth. And so, we 00:29:00had some backup opportunities. But this whole COVID world has added a lot to our plates. And just from the health and safety aspect for our athletes.

GL: In the summer of 2020, were any of our athletes at practice?

WP: No.

GL: Okay. When was the first time that athletes went back to playing or practicing?

WP: Well, we were hoping and had everything put together for the fall of 2020 to resume sports. But of course, we had another surge and had to make a call. And, unfortunately, all our fall sports for canceled, and I was, you know, kind of 00:30:00pushing for some sports like cross country, tennis, and golf to continue on, because they're smaller teams outdoors. But the position, and I understand from the conference perspective, and from the Council of Chancellors of the con conference was all or none, and, and so all our fall sports, all that work that we did over the summer to get prepared to have a fall season, it was just like, really kind of heartbreaking, you know, you want to kind of see if your plan and in your policies that you created, were going to be really effective or not. And, like I said, all the hard work and sweat put into those policies, you know, 00:31:00so be it. But so then we didn't have fall sports. And then it was another resocialization document came out from the NCAA. And then we had with different guidelines. So we had to, you know, start developing or updating and modifying our policies to get ready for the winter sports. And we didn't know if those were going to go on. So it's like, okay, am I going to be doing all this work for nothing again, and but we were able to start getting people back in and doing things in October of 2020. And didn't know if we were, you know, what kind of a season we were going to have or anything like that things were always last-minute decisions, depending on what the circumstances were.

GL: This the beginning of the fall semester of 2020, what did you do workwise? I 00:32:00mean, you were not seeing any athletes at that time, right?

WP: I was teaching, and then still putting these policies together. And some of those athletes that possibly, you know, we had put off, are now back on campus. So we are working with those athletes. And we had to rearrange our whole athletic training room, you know, we had to take tables out, really concentrate on how many athletes that we had in there, and maintain the social distancing, masking, making sure that they were getting tested. And so it was a whole different atmosphere and environment than what we were accustomed to. I mean our 00:33:00athletic training room prior to the pandemic; we could have 40-50 people in there all at once. And now we're limiting it to six athletes, maybe even less than that. I can't remember. But we did have a policy in regards to the number of athletes and how we were going to kind of progress that hopefully, throughout the year. But so it was a completely different environment. Athletes got a lot more one on one attention. I'll tell you that much.

GL: At that point, we don't have we didn't have the vaccine yet.

WP: No.

GL: And were you and your staff worried about such close contact with someone else?

WP: Yes. And, you know, we had to be really mindful of that. I mean, I do remember working with an athlete. And it was only 10 minutes, but I was doing 00:34:00some manual therapy. And the next day, they test positive. And it's like, okay, but when we're doing our rehab and, you know, if they're on a machine, we definitely were more than six feet away, keeping our distance. And we were successful in getting through that whole timeframe. Knock on wood during this whole pandemic, time, none of my athletic trainers have tested positive. And so, but we do take a lot of precautions. And I know, you know, currently with the current Omicron and all that. There's probably a high probability that we're all going to get it, but we can talk about that later.

GL: Some of the instructors have decided that they weren't going to teach in 00:35:00person and that the risk was too high. You doing what you do as a, you know, athletic trainer, you didn't have that option really? Right?

WP: No, not really. And we did have now, our Athletic Training Education classes were allowed to be still taught in person at the beginning of 2020, and September, but they are smaller classes. I mean, because we can only have so many students, according to our accreditation standards, and so we were able to mask and maintain distance during classes and so forth. But I understand that, you know, there's no doubt that there was a fear factor in there. And you know, 00:36:00and that was one thing that we had, really, I think my time coming back at the beginning of August and working in the environment really helped prepare me to feel more comfortable going forward. And knowing the mitigation steps that I had to take to keep myself safe and keep my family safe.

GL: What would you say were your three biggest challenges during the time of COVID, we're talking from the early days of, of COVID, through December of 2021.

WP: The biggest challenges have been to try to stay up to date with things, things just change so rapidly. And you know that morning, something could be told to you, but that afternoon is totally opposite. And so just trying to stay on top of all the current information, so that I can provide that information to 00:37:00the athletes and coaches and keep them abreast of everything. Another challenge was, yeah, I mean, part of my job is taking care of the athletes, well when you're dealing with all the COVID policies and procedures, and meetings and those types of things, some of their health care gets put off, because I'm busy doing these types of things. And then you know, probably another challenge was to make time for my family. I mean, my days were spent coming in at about 7:30 in the morning and leaving at about nine o'clock at night. And, and here we are not even having sports, but it's just trying to put everything together. So that was a big challenge to make time for the family to

GL: What, you know, with you and your team having to take care of your athletes 00:38:00during the time of COVID. You know, virtually and now in person. What would you say were some of the highlights? Or the positives that came out of it?

WP: Well, I mean, I would say, you know, once we got sports going again, that's when the athlete started taking things more serious again. So the highlight, I can tell you that our busiest time with COVID was right at the beginning of September, and canceling fall sports was a big thing. And these athletes, you know, work their butt off, to be prepared and come back and have a season and 00:39:00then it gets taken away from them. And then I can tell you that the week of September 7, September 14, and September 21, we had approximately 130 positive cases in athletics. So we were busy just taking care of COVID positives and making sure that were in isolation figuring out who needed to quarantine because they were close contacts. And then once they were done with isolation, getting them in for physician clearance, and then doing a return to play policy with them. So we were busy with that like constantly during September and October. But once we were able to get sports going again, our positivity rate went way down. And athletes were more mindful, they were obeying the mitigation rules and 00:40:00those types of things, because there was some light. And so to me, that was nice to see the response to the athletes and doing their part in this whole process to get back to sports,

GL: We're talking September of 2020?

WP: Correct.

GL: Okay. So what was the like, when the spring sports were actually the spring season was, was going to go on?

WP: So we finally made the decision and got ready for a partial season for our winter sports, we allow them to do some, I think men's basketball, they ended up playing maybe 12 games, and then having a conference tournament, gymnastics was 00:41:00allowed four meets, something like that, wrestling was allowed four meets. So at least they had, you know, I guess, if you want to, say an exhibition season, and not everything was taken away from them, but still no gold trophy to go after. But with spring sports, there, we went on as normal. And, again, you know, being an airborne transmission, the risk was very minimal. And things went pretty much as planned for all our spring sports.

GL: Did COVID change the way you do your job during the spring semester?

WP: We were still taken all the all the safety factors, I mean, you know, still 00:42:00to this day, we still practice the same things. We have increased the distance between treatment tables, to try to still maintain some spatial and distancing between athletes, we still maintain masking in the athletic training room, just being a medical facility. And all our cleaning is, I would say, much more improved than it was in the past, not to say that we didn't keep a clean facility and so forth. But, you know, if a person just touches the table, we go back over there and clean the thing right away, you know, even though they didn't use it, they just touched it. It's just become a habit.

GL: Do you think that's gonna stay with you that those kind of practices will stay? After COVID has gone? Knock on wood.


WP: Yeah, I mean definitely. I mean, I think we're a lot more aware of the cleaning practices and those types of things than we have ever been. And, you know, I think I'm in a position right now that we just got to start coexisting with this whole virus and start treating it a little bit more like any other respiratory virus. You know, because I think we're going to start seeing cycle upon cycle. And, you know, from what you hear and read, you know, we're probably not going to get through this too much without getting the world vaccinated to kind of minimize.

GL: Is that something that you talk about with your student athletes or your 00:44:00staff regarding the vaccinations?

WP: Yes, definitely. We were like I said, we have 569 athletes on rosters this year, and we're at 81% of those athletes have been vaccinated. And so really appreciate their efforts into getting vaccinated and keeping our atmosphere and our environment safe. Now with the booster, just had an NCAA call yesterday, and the booster plays a big role into if they're considered fully vaccinated or not. And so, our athletes, I would say, haven't taken a look at the actual stats, but just thinking of our winter sports, we're probably at about 50% of those that 00:45:00were vaccinated got boosted. And I'm sure in the next week, we're going to see the other 50% getting their boosters because they're eligible, and it takes away a lot of headaches. Because on yesterday's call, if you're not boosted, are you if you haven't tested positive in the last 90 days, or you're outside of the timeframe. So that would be two months for Johnson and Johnson vaccine, the five months Pfizer vaccine, and six months Moderna vaccine, they're going to be required to start testing three times a week again. And so easy way to put that to a stop is to get boosted, and then they're not required to be tested. So.

GL: At what point would you say that we were, what would what needs to happen 00:46:00for us to be back to normal?

WP: You know, you talked to everybody, you know, are we ever going to be back to normal? I think we will be to a degree, but like you just said, you know, we're going to look back at the past year and a half, two years, and hopefully learn from what we've done, and make changes in our practices that increase that the health and safety and, you know, during a winter season again, I mean, we may see more masking from people even though, you know, we saw it last year, how many cases of the flu? Not many at all, I mean, I think someone said the state of Wisconsin had 21 confirmed cases of the flu, that's nothing and but they related it back to masking and are we going to start seeing people take those 00:47:00types of precautions in the future. And I mean, I didn't have a sinus infection last year. So life was good.

GL: What has living and working during the time COVID taught you about yourself?

WP: Just be more aware of your surroundings. And I am more like I say detail, I have always been kind of an organized more detailed person. But during this time, more aware of my surroundings, keeping you know my distance, because I don't know what that other person. I mean, if I know what their status is, which I do with a lot of our athletes, I'm a little bit more comfortable and, and more interactive. But if I don't, I am taking more of those precautions to you know, 00:48:00keep myself safe. And, you know, I just don't want to bring things home, you know, to the family and so forth. And I know some of the other things too, that I'm still cognizant of are, with, even with Dr. Mackenzie coming down, we have to keep him safe, because he's working with the Packers and their season needs to go on. And so just, I guess more aware of things over this whole time and hand, a lot more hand washing. I can tell you that much.

GL: You know, actually, I have couple of things I want to follow up on. Your degree from your advanced degree, what was that the graduate degree?

WP: My degree at Western Michigan was in sports medicine.

GL: Is that masters or?

WP: Masters.


GL: Okay. And then the I was gonna ask you about oh, during the fall semester of 2020. Were you also doing testing? Were you working in that area to the beginning of the first month?

WP: Yeah. Well, the nice part is all my fellow athletic trainers from different universities were involved with a lot more testing. Here, we were pretty fortunate. Kim Langolf and Chief Leibold put together a great testing crew over at Albee Hall and so we didn't have to worry about testing much at all. The testing crew, Tara and her crew, took care of all our athletes and they've been 00:50:00fantastic to work with during this whole entire period and have bent over backwards for us. I can, you know, words can't describe the appreciation of I've ever, everybody that stepped forward to help us out in athletics.

GL: I must have misunderstood, I thought that some of your staff worked in the testing,

WP: We were prepared to do some stuff like that as kind of backup jobs, to avoid possible furloughs and so forth.

GL: But you didn't have to?

WP: No.

GL: Okay, all right. I just want to make that clear. Alright, um, did you know anyone who tested positive I mean, who got seriously ill with COVID?

WP: We were pretty fortunate. I mean, we've had some cases that have lingered on with, you know, maybe they had four days of the fever, and we really had to keep 00:51:00a close eye on them. Probably one right at the beginning. And she got it when she was in Australia, coming back are coming back from Australia. And she was an endurance athlete, she ended up having some long-term effects. And we had to have her get checked out through our cardiovascular and respiratory health care specialists. And she ended up giving up sports just because of that, but that's probably the worst case that we had that of athletes. And so I think we've so far, knock on wood, you know, haven't had any terrible outcomes.

GL: If you don't mind, I want to just talk a little bit about your own your own family situation. You went home, you told, he said that you worked many hours on 00:52:00helping put together the policy for the safe return the heightened returns program. Who were who was living with you at home, your wife and?

WP: I have a daughter who currently is a senior in high school. And then my son who's currently in eighth grade.

GL: How was it living and working at home with the kids because they're still what they were in high school, and they probably went, you know, their schools went online too.

WP: Yeah, I'm till they're all virtual. And it was, I overtook my son's bedroom and, because my wife was also working from home, and she had the office area. So I had, he had a desk in there. And I want my current office here at school, over Kolf Sports Center, there's no windows, you know, and he had a window where his 00:53:00desk was, and I could see out the front and so I overtook his room for that entire period of time. I mean, he still slept in there, but all my stuff was in his room. And when I would have meetings and so forth, he'd get kicked out and have to go downstairs. But you know, overall, I think the, the kids really did a good job of enduring this whole time and accepting everything. And from time to time, they would bug you a little bit, but they were pretty conscious of hey, Dad and Mom are working and we were able to, you know, bring friends over or bring them to friend's house to spend time one on one with one or two friends that we knew and trusted you know, during that time to keep their sanity.


GL: And how, how are were you doing during that time, I mean, mental health wise stress level, you know, having to shelter in place pretty much and then also trying to do your work in in your son's room?

WP: It wasn't bad. I mean, by the time I came back in August, it was a nice refreshing change and to get back into the regular work environment, but I can say if it went on for another year, I probably would be a little bit more crazy and it would've affected me a little bit more. But I think having a in the summertime you know just being able to take a little lunch outside and get some 00:55:00sunshine. And that, you know, I think the sun helped deal a little bit and, and just kept me kept me going. And I think the other thing is, you know, my goal is always to give every opportunity to an athlete to participate in sports. And here we are trying to put things together so we can have sports, so there's that drive and determination also, to get the job done. And get back to, like you said earlier, a little bit more normalcy.

GL: That's, gonna backtrack a little bit more, again, when you talk to the, you know, when you were working with the students, on the bad knee, whatever, did you have any conversations about, you know, how they're feeling?

WP: Definitely, I mean, we actually did a little survey of this student athletes 00:56:00when they were all cooped up, and, and that was in the summer of 2020, just to see how they were doing. And he definitely saw an increase in mental health issues, and the sadness of not being able to go to a national meet. And then being aware of that, and then making the decision in fall, to cancel or fall sports. Oh boy, you know, so the NCAA has done a lot with that. And, and I know that it's like, almost the number one issue amongst all the athletes surveyed, in the NCAA is, you know, mental health. And getting things taken away from them that they've worked very hard to try to do.


GL: Did you play sports in high school, college?

WP: I played basketball and golf in high school. And then golf is my favorite sports so.

GL: So you understand that the, the athletes desire to play to compete. And so you, you understand how they, how they felt? Are they, the ones that you spoke to, were they frustrated, angry, were they resigned? And how did you talk them? You know, did you give them a pep talk, or?

WP: Every situation is unique, and you have to approach it that way. And, you know, think before you talk, you know, to not setting another trigger or anything like that. Definitely saw frustration, you know, and I think that was, 00:58:00when you see, almost, you know, all those cases that we saw in those three weeks in September, that was all frustration, you know, screw you you're taking my season away, I don't really care anymore, and were going to get together and have a good time. And that good time lead the positive cases. And so, you know, to be able to get back into sports, you know, then we see our positivity rate start go down, you know, that least they're a little bit happier now, because they are, listening to the rules and so forth, in order to participate. So that was encouraging to see. And, but everybody's different and how you handle that. And, you know, in some of the tougher situations, Jen, my assistant that I 00:59:00talked about earlier, we looked to her, she teaches a class, for athletic trainers, and she's more in involved with the mental health and wellness of our athletes. And so if we have tougher cases, we refer those to her and she'll talk with them and if we need to, you know, get any additional expertise involved.

GL: Your background, you know how to fix somebody who sprained an ankle or strain their shoulder or neck, whatever. How do you, how did you have to adjust when it came down to this virus and athletics?

WP: Well, I mean, for me my main duty during this time is again, overseeing the, 01:00:00making sure that we have sports, you know, and have them safely. And so, like I said earlier, my time in health care started going down. And still, is, you know, I mean, I'm not, I try to give all the time I can to the athletes, like our gymnasts, and so forth. But unfortunately, like a day, like yesterday, I was at three different meetings from nine o'clock till four o'clock in the afternoon. And, you know, a takes away from me spending time with them. So, hopefully, when we get back to that more normalcy, you know, I'll be able to kind of get back to what I was doing prior to.

GL: Do you have anything else that you would like to add that we haven't touched on?

WP: Um, no, it's been an adventure. I mean, there's no doubt about it. And you 01:01:00know, we've seen people come together, we've seen people grow apart, you know, and the nice thing about athletics is, we see all that. But in the actual athletic environment, we see people come together and support each other, even though they may have different views and those types of things. And so that's always a nice thing to see and be involved with, you know, and I guess we kind of see where we go now with the Omicron. And whatever mutation is going to be after that, and, and, but I think we're starting to realize a little bit more that we're going to have to coexist with this virus in the future, and how we're 01:02:00going to make that happen. And hopefully, we'll see some, some improved plans, our infrastructure plans and so forth with testing and those types of things, and ends up being just another virus that, you know, dealing with influenza and all those other viruses so.

GL: The young woman that you that athlete that had the knee surgery, and then you were helping her, do rehab, virtually. Is she better?

WP: Yeah.

GL: Is she able to compete?

WP: This is her final year.

GL: What?

WP: Actually will backtrack that was back when she had that surgery, it was a 01:03:00shoulder and sister actually had driven here to pick her up from Colorado, and then they had to drive back and little adventure for her but now it is the knee that she's recovering from almost a year to the date that she injured her knee and had to have surgery so.

GL: I got confused there. Was the injury, a knee injury or a shoulder? Did you say shoulder?

WP: In 2020? It was, yeah 2020. She had shoulder surgery. And then almost a year to the date she had knee surgery.

GL: Oh, poor kid. But when you were doing the virtual rehab, was it for the shoulder injury?

WP: Correct.

GL: Okay. Okay. But and then she had the knee surgery this year, but she's 01:04:00getting better.

WP: Yeah.

GL: Awesome. All right. Well, thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to the Campus COVID Stories at UW Oshkosh.

WP: Thank you.