In a statement released on July 10, the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) presidents announced the unanimous cancellation of conference championships and competition until January 1, 2021. To provide students with continued athletic opportunities, however, conventional NESCAC rules will be altered to allow coaches to engage with athletes in training outside of the traditional season.
Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan appreciated the flexibility offered by this plan.
“With schools in five different states, we have institutions that have different guidelines in place for activities and gatherings,” Ryan said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “Being as flexible as possible provides the best opportunity for institutions to be successful and to allow students to have some type of athletic experience during the fall.”
The start date for the winter sports season has also been moved up from November 1 to October 15.
“That again was with the mindset of increasing the amount of time during which students could acclimate themselves to their new season and have activity overseen by coaches as opposed to groups coming together that wouldn’t have any coach oversight,” said Ryan.
Bowdoin’s athletic department hopes to eventually transition into offering in-person workouts for students living on campus, targeted mainly at building individual skill and developing relationships between teammates and coaches.
“I think it will be really awesome for coaches to be able to work with [first years],” said Tori Beck ’23, a member of the women’s basketball team, in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It’s such a big learning curve when you’re first starting out. I learned a lot from the upperclassmen, but [current first years] obviously won’t have the chance to do that. Obviously, the coaches know a lot about the sport, so they’ll be able to help.”
Beck noted that in a team-oriented sport like basketball, conditioning is difficult to accomplish alone. To make training easier, the team will attempt to lead group workouts over Zoom. Overall, Beck remains optimistic about the increased opportunities provided by the rule changes for the NESCAC.
“When we get into season, usually, we have to focus so much on putting a new system into play, learning plays, stuff like that, and I think that by getting to work with [the coaches] before the season starts, we’ll be able to focus on and develop our basketball skills instead of just having to go right into our plays and the systems that we need to prepare for opponents,” said Beck.
Ryan expressed gratitude for the support of the athletic training staff and administrators in creating procedures to provide a safe environment for athletes and coaches to come together—and for the willingness of student athletes to support these procedures despite the disappointing conditions.
“That’s one of the best things about Bowdoin students—they want to be close and to support their peers, and it’s harder to do that when you’re not coming together,” said Ryan. “I think our students understand the reasons why we have these policies in place, but it certainly still is challenging for them.”