By Mikey Halligan
With the uptick in cases on campus, as well as the current surge in COVID-19 around the country, many Saint Michael’s coaches, parents, and athletes are still unsure if winter athletics will be able to compete for this upcoming 2020-2021 season.
On Nov. 12, Chris Kenny, Director of Athletics, sent an email to all winter sports athletes stating: “winter sports teams will not be allowed to return to organized athletic activity between now and Thanksgiving, and will also not be allowed to remain on campus to practice over the first half of the semester break.”
“In the past, two or three weeks since we had the outbreak, it has certainly taken a toll on athletes and they still have the option to go home if they feel that is best for them… we are not going to force them to stay,” explained Bollhardt. “We coaches had a plan, but then we got new restrictions put in place so we are trying to figure out what our new plan can be… we are hoping to play early January, so it would be beneficial to get some practices in before we go home for Christmas,” said Shannon Bollhardt, Head Coach of Women’s Basketball and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Advisor (SAAC).
While winter sports teams are still figuring out the unknown about their competitive seasons, many student-athletes are becoming anxious and nervous about not hearing anything from college and coaches.
“Mentally the fact that we have been constantly waiting for any sort of news has left me and my teammates feeling anxious. We know that the decision is not in our hands, but the best thing for us to do now is to prepare as if we are playing in the second semester,” said Andrew DeCristoforo ’22, a player on the Men’s Ice Hockey team.
“It has been difficult to remain positive in this time of uncertainty,” said Abby Sullivan ’21, a member of the Alpine Skiing team. “I hope the athletic department will soon confirm a plan and notify the winter sports teams regarding the fate of our seasons.”
While communicating with Kenny about the return-to-campus dates for student-athletes next semester, he explained that there are no set dates athletes are expected to come back. “The decision on when to return is made by a combination of the head coach, athletics administration, and college leadership. Of course, the State of Vermont is also involved if conditions merit.”
“I’m really conflicted because I want to be excited to play but I’m not convinced we will actually be having a season,” explained Mikaila Langbacka ’24 a player on the Women’s Ice Hockey team. “These are probably the last four years of hockey I will ever play and I don’t want one of those years to be taken from me.”
“So, given the news, our team moving forward will be focusing on academics as well as strength and conditioning,” said Bollhardt. “We know they are limited in how much access they have to basketball courts at home, so the focus will be to have them return to campus after the holidays as fit as possible so we can focus on basketball!”
“As of right now competitive seasons are planned for next semester,” said Kenny. “Northeast-10 member institutions continue to monitor and adjust to, on a daily basis, the impact of the virus at the national, regional, and state levels and stay in constant communication with each other as we move forward together.”
Although the winter sports seasons are still unclear, the NCAA made it public on Oct. 20 that Division II winter athletes will receive an additional season of competition through a waiver the Division II Management Council approved earlier that week. However, the NCAA has no part in offering students financial aid for the extra eligibility season’s academic year. It is up to the institution on how the student-athletes will pay for their tuition if granted eligibility.