COVID-19 has changed how Notre Dame players prepare for game day

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Notre Dame football has tightened up its safety protocols after a COVID-19 outbreak sidelined approximately a third of the team.

The Irish believe they identified at least some of the contributing factors that led to the spike in cases, so they’ve made some changes.

Head Coach Brian Kelly says the Irish will eat their pre-game meals in a larger room so players can spread out and limit face-to-face contact.

Executive Sous Chef Matt Seitz explains the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

"Our biggest change has been that the students and the football team are not allowed to sit in a dining room and eat together. So, all of their food has to be put into a to-go container. Then, they have to go-off site and eat, in a socially distant manner, or by themselves. So, that has been our biggest challenge across all campus dining is how do we execute this? How do we still provide high-quality food, nutritionally-balanced food with this service model, where we can't have people waiting. We can't have people lining up. They have to grab their food as quickly as possible and go. And, so that has been our biggest challenge the entire semester,” Seitz said.

In the past they had a buffet line spread out and the players could serve themselves whatever they wanted. How has that changed?

“We are still doing the buffet line for the football team. It is a served buffet this year, as opposed to them going through and serving themselves. So, our staff is actually behind the line, separated by plexiglass, and then serving the food to the players and putting it into a to-go box for them," Seitz said. “As far as the food is concerned, we haven't had a lot of changes in the types of food, but the service style has been our biggest change. We're trying to keep a lot of the same stuff there.”

Although some may think it’s just food, it’s really more than that. It’s important for the players.

“Every chef subscribes to philosophy, 'You are what you eat.' And nutrition plays a pivotal role in everything that we do, from mental acuity and taking a test, to recovering after a hard practice and getting ready for a game. The food we eat really reflects as to who we are and what we're going to do with our body and our mind. And so, that is a pivotal part of what we're doing with our student athletes, and all of our students, quite frankly,” Seitz said.

In addition to the meal changes Notre Dame is also moving to a shifted locker room schedule and a zero-tolerance mask policy for players on the sideline.

This comes after a player got sick on the sidelines during the South Florida game.

Trainers thought he was dehydrated but then two days later he tested positive for COVID-19.

Coach Kelly says the team will now have rapid antigen tests available on the sidelines.

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