Raider Pavilion felt eerily empty. The gray and white walls and floors with a striped Raider blue motif felt cold and barren, but in the equipment manager’s office, one could see some life.
Moorpark College Athletics and all California community college athletic programs have been on hiatus since early March this year. When the program went dormant to competition, the athletic department was also budding with new life to create a safe and healthy environment for Raiders to compete once again, whenever that day comes.
Three faculty members who are instrumental in bringing back out athletes safely are Athletic Director Vance Manakas and equipment managers Robert Mascarenas and Tommy Arellano.
Manakas, Mascarenas and Arellano have taken responsibility into their own hands to create a safe environment for student-athletes to participate in offseason conditioning classes to get ready for competition, whenever it should begin.
Manakas established protocol for student-athletes to return to conditioning. These protocols include wearing proper personal protection equipment, distancing themselves during exercise, utilizing the southern California weather and creating an outdoor weight room and conditioning center.
Manakas, who will retire at the end of December, is committed to giving student-athletes every opportunity to improve and hone their game.
“I would like to provide an opportunity if we can do it safely,” Manakas said.
Safety is a top concern for Mascarenas, who started at Moorpark right before the pandemic hit.
He takes cleanliness to the next level with his state-of-the-art sanitizer gun, which he uses to sanitize the outdoor conditioning equipment. The gun kills germs and the virus in about 10 minutes.
Of course, as with any return to school athletics, there is a considerable concern for student-athletes’ safety.
When asked if school athletics should return, Mascarenas said, “The more people interacting, the higher chance of spreading the virus. Athletics should be fine, but if one to two teams have an outbreak, sports would effectively be shut down.”
Manakas echoed this sentiment.
“It’s critical because if one person gets it, we have to shut the whole team down. Then we have to go through the contact tracing steps to find the source of the breakout and protect our student-athletes,” Manakas said.
On Nov. 16, Ventura County moved back into the purple tier of COVID safety, the most restrictive tier in the state, putting a spring return for school athletics in jeopardy. But that isn’t detouring Mascarenas from working incredibly hard at his job.
One of Mascarenas’s favorite aspects of the job is the interaction with the student-athletes.
“I like to be able to give guidance to our athletes, to help set them down the right path and mentor them,” said Mascarenas.
Unable to enjoy that aspect of the job, Mascarenas has focused on beautifying the new athletic facility that opened in December, last year.
Many athletes have not had the opportunity to use the facility to the fullest since the program went on hiatus in March.
Mascarenas and Arellano have taken to setting up trophy display cases and uniform displays in the new athletics building.
The two equipment managers work hard behind the scenes to ready Raider facilities and outfit the student-athletes, and they will continue to do so until the athletes compete once again.
It is unclear when Moorpark College will see their Raiders making key tackles and sinking critical baskets. One thing that is clear: Moorpark athletes are not the only ones suffering from the sports hiatus.
“There is a big in-person aspect of this job,” said Mascarenas, “There’s a lot of responsibilities, and it is a blessing to have them. I’m thankful to have a job still.”
Manakas believes student-athletes are ecstatic to participate in offseason conditioning and that they are thankful for the equipment staff.
They prepare the facilities and outfit the athletes for whatever challenges they face on and off the field.
Raiders know that when the bell rings for competition, Mascarenas, Arellanos and Manakas will be there getting them ready to compete in the Moorpark College way.