For the first time since the NESCAC’s founding in 1971, the conference has given fall sports—such as football, soccer, volleyball and field hockey—the green light to hold team practices over the course of the spring.
“The NESCAC provided flexibility this year in light of schools returning from essentially a year away from traditional athletic activity, and permitting the non-traditional season … was one of the changes identified that could positively impact students returning to competitive athletics,” Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan wrote in an email to the Orient.
Each team has been permitted a total of fifteen practices during the spring, with sessions occurring three times a week for the five-week stretch between spring break and reading period.
For the football team, players and coaches alike are pouncing on the opportunity to gain experience and improve their game. Defensive back Chris Althoff ’24 said that he felt adding spring practices was an exciting opportunity for the team to gain experience ahead of next year’s fall season.
“We’re a really young team, so it’s important to have all the extra time we can get,” Althoff said. “I think it’ll benefit us more than other teams in the league because of our youth.”
Head Football Coach BJ Hammer believes that practices in the spring are not only an opportunity to improve as a team but can also help student-athletes with their time-management abilities.
“It’s such a great opportunity for our student athletes and their ability to develop,” Hammer said. “Hopefully, it’s something that the NESCAC will keep, because the benefits outweigh any negatives … It’s a great sign that we’re progressing and allowing our student athletes an opportunity to develop. The goal is simply to get better.”
Men’s soccer head coach Scott Wiercinski said that he believes spring practices have allowed his team to take a different approach to their normal fall training regimen, citing that the lack of game pressure has allowed both him and his players to exclusively focus on improving their practice abilities.
“In the fall, we are worried about scouting reports [and] very functional, specific execution stuff that is going to help us win games,” Wiercinski said. “It’s very micro scale in terms of how we prepare for games. In the spring, because we have no games to play, we have no real evaluation against opponents, we can think about much more macro-scale stuff.”
“It has been a lot more fun to ride the rhythms of the learning and training rather than seeing a mistake and realizing someone might not be a great option for the next game,” Wiercinski added.
Oliva Rayis ’24, a member of the women’s soccer team, said she has found spring practices to be valuable to a point where she would encourage the conference to continue to permit the fifteen practices indefinitely.
“I know it would elevate our conference, and I know we are already competitive, but I was surprised we were already not allowed to have a spring season … I think that would be a really good decision moving forward in the future, and I would love to see that change,” Rayis said.
Wiercinski has been very vocal about implementing off-season practices into NESCAC regulations for a while.
“I have been screaming from the mountaintops that this should be the way things are. I think [this] is a net positive across the board,” Wiercinski said. “We are having a ton of fun, I am having a ton of fun, and there are a ton of benefits to what we are doing … I am looking forward to having it pay off in the fall.”