By Chris Gionta
Not one has gone through the last six months without making compromises, and that is now especially true with the fall athletes and coaches at Springfield College.
On July 17, Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper announced that the school would not be involved in any intercollegiate athletic competition. Since then, coaches have been preparing for an exclusively intrasquad fall season, while also adjusting to new limits and restrictions for general safety.
“At the moment, we’re in groups of ten, and they have to be six feet apart and wear masks,” said John Gibson, the head coach of the Springfield women’s soccer program. “Then we hope if everything goes well that restriction will be off.”
Unlike a normal season, conditioning may have to take a back seat to technical work for the first couple of weeks, rather than the other way around.
“It’s going to be much more of a skill focus initially than it normally is at this time of year,” said Melissa Sharpe, the head coach of the Springfield field hockey team.
The coaches also recognize that their athletes are likely at different levels of readiness due to the quarantine, and they realize that every individual had differing circumstances.
“The first two weeks, our priority is just trying to get the kids back acclimated to different running mechanics and techniques, and seeing what type of condition and shape that we might be in,” said Mike Cerasulo, the head coach of the Springfield football team. “Because everybody was under different circumstances during the last 6-8 months or however long we’ve been doing this for. Some guys had all the equipment they needed, some guys had very little, some guys had none.”
Without intercollegiate competition, the perception is that there is no end goal. This is partially true, and the coaches are aware of that, but they take it as a challenge. They must find new methods to motivate their athletes and keep it competitive.
“For us, it’s finding ways to be creative as coaches, and it’s implementing different types of training, different types of drills — things that are going to look really different to the players — trying to mix it up frequently so it’s not just the same old routine, and it’s, in a good way, somewhat unpredictable for them,” said Coach Sharpe. “But also, I think a big piece of that is finding ways to create competition within a practice.”
For many athletes, especially underclassmen, the motivation must be maintained even without competition, with sights on future seasons. Cerasulo is aware that this is not a lost season for everyone involved.
“Motivation [for the players] to me is pretty easy,” he explained. “Because at some point, this is going to all change and so we’ve got to be ready to play, and our kids understand that, and they want to play, so they’re working every day for the opportunity for that to happen. We don’t know when that might happen. Hopefully we have the opportunity to have a maroon-on-white scrimmage at some point during the fall. If not, potentially there’s something in the spring. If not that, we’re definitely, hopefully going to play in the fall.”
Younger players can surely benefit from this new athletic experience, as it gives them more repetitions to craft their skills for the future. Attempting walk-ons will also face newer, and possibly more beneficial challenges in their pursuit to play for the Pride.
“We have some kids that are kind of in a situation where they’re being looked at to try out,” Sharpe said. “And so, giving them scenarios where they can be successful and show their competition level as well I think is going to be very needed.”
The 2020 fall sports season will undoubtedly be incomparable to any other collegiate athletic season that has been experienced thus far. The initial feeling towards it is negative, but people may take some unexpected positives from it. Since this has never been done, all anyone can do is wait and see.
Photo Courtesy of Jack Margaros