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Spring Athletics shrouded in uncertainty as NESCAC announcement looms

February 12, 2021

Varsity athletics for the winter season have already been canceled, but neither the NESCAC nor Bowdoin has made a final decision yet about the spring. The College has created specific times in the academic schedule for athletes to practice and compete. Still, with the ever-evolving nature of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, coaches and players remain nervous about the status of spring athletics.

Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan outlined a similar approach to the one taken during the fall semester.

“We will be able to have teams practicing outside in orange status and we will be able to practice both inside and outside in yellow status,” Ryan said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “Our teams will largely be working with coaches in small groups, and we have systems in place to make sure we are disinfecting equipment between workouts. Hopefully we’ll be able to provide our students with an enjoyable experience on campus even if it won’t, more likely than not, include the opportunity to compete.”

Ryan also highlighted that, due to a NESCAC rule change for the academic year, fall and winter athletic teams will have the opportunity to practice this semester alongside spring athletic teams.

“Members of our fall and winter teams that are on campus this spring will have the opportunity to work out with their coaches, which is a change from the traditional approach,” Ryan said. “[This] is a result of additional flexibility provided by the pandemic as a way to provide supervised athletic engagement to students on campus.”

The NESCAC is expected to make a final announcement regarding inter-conference play and championships in late February or early March, but Ryan thinks it’s unlikely that Bowdoin teams will be traveling across state borders to compete.

“I can only really speak to Bowdoin and our approach, which is that it is unlikely we will compete [across state lines],” Ryan said. “One of the big challenges is the travel restrictions that are in place in various states. In a conference with schools that span five different states, it is challenging to think about conference and championship play especially when we’re looking to avoid overnight stays.”

He has not yet ruled out the possibility of competing against other colleges in Maine.

“Our approach is that, if we are going to compete, it is likely our teams will compete against other teams in Maine,” Ryan said. “There are current guidelines in place on campus in respect to returning from outside of state travel that would make it really difficult for students to fully engage in their academics if we were to compete out of state.”

Athletes were told to not make their decision about whether to return to campus for the semester  based on athletics. With the uncertainty about how athletics will operate this spring and whether competitions will be held, many athletes decided to live off campus. However, students living off campus and who are not “in-residence”—an option only available to seniors—are considered to be “remote” and are not allowed to participate in athletics on campus.

This has presented a difficult situation for the Women’s Lacrosse team.

“[All the seniors are] living off campus [and studying remotely], which makes it so that we can’t practice or participate in any games as seniors, so there are a lot of emotions there,” women’s lacrosse co-captain Katie Miller ’21 said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “And right now, our entire junior class besides two girls are also remote. Our entire sophomore class is on campus, [but] of course no [first years], so we don’t even have enough people to field a team.”

Those on campus will not have access to a gym or training facility for the “Hibearnation” period and for the first few weeks of the semester, and they will therefore have to find other ways to train. Men’s track and field co-captain Reed Foster said that he and his teammates are currently doing bodyweight workouts in their rooms instead.

“I think that’s going to make it a lot tougher, but at the same time we also know that we have two months to prepare really for any competition that we might see more towards the April/May timeframe, so that’s great,” Foster said in a phone interview with the Orient.

Softball Head Coach Ryan Sullivan has not had an entire team together or played a game since the second week of March in 2020. His plan for spring training is largely contingent on Bowdoin’s campus remaining in “yellow” status.

“Assuming we move to ‘yellow’ status on-campus and everyone is allowed to move a little bit more freely and athletic activities are allowed to take place, we’re going to shoot for two or three days a week trying to keep it light and casual to give our kids some athletic activity and a chance to be active,” Sullivan said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

Sullivan had two first-year players on campus in the fall, who he hopes to keep engaged via Zoom calls and text check-ins. He also spoke to the five seniors on his team who were unable to play their junior season and may face the same fate for their senior season.

“It’s been a challenge, and I think most of us naively looked [from] last June/July and thought we’d be playing in the spring of 2021,” Sullivan said. “The seniors have done a great job staying strong but in the short term they’re really disappointed that this is where they are and I don’t blame them.”

Uncertain as to whether his team will be playing inter-conference, inter-state or even at all in the spring, Sullivan’s hope is that his seniors get to play one last double-header at home so they can experience their senior day.

“If we could just line up on the foul line and be out there for the national anthem one more time at home that would be enough for me,” Sullivan said.


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