By Jackson Stoever
Spring sports have started, and athletes are finally taking to the fields after their extended time away. In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, students were unsure whether spring sports would get a season this semester. An answer came on March 10 when the college received reassuring news from President Lorraine Sterritt regarding the future of spring sports.
“With carefully developed health and safety protocols, reviewed and approved by the NE10, we are able to have spring sports” she wrote in a school-wide email.
On the same day, the St. Michael’s athletics department released a statement with the league’s decision regarding fan support on campus and provided further information.
“At this time, no outside spectators will be permitted at Northeast 10 Conference contests” the statement said. “This includes family and parents of student-athletes for home and visiting teams, as well as Saint Michael’s College students and community members.”
Without the cheer and excitement riveting from the stands, athletes are looking to their own to fill the missing gap that fans have left behind. Kyle Hirshom ’22, captain of the men’s lacrosse team, understands the COVID-19 precautions and put a positive spin on the missing fanbase.
“After losing last season, we are thrilled just to have the opportunity to compete,” he said. “During games, our bench has done a great job bringing a ton of energy and boosting morale.”
According to Hirshom, like St. Michael’s, the schools that his team have played have had similar COVID-19 precautions in place that restrict fan support.
Despite the restrictions in place, athletes understand the safety concerns and teams have managed to hold each other accountable. Dante Moran ’21 reflected on the baseball team and how he has helped keep safety precautions in check.
“We have yet to have a true away series this season,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is to make sure everyone holds each other accountable to make sure we aren’t putting ourselves or others at risk while traveling.”
According to Moran, some opposing teams and their respective colleges allow spectators. He argues that this could have its benefits.
“I know that other schools (in the NE10) are allowing fans. I do think that this could be handled properly and could have a positive impact on the spring sport athletes” he said.
In addition, there is some confusion as to why these rules are so strict.
Angelica Johns ’24 admits that there is some confusion among the athletes on the reasoning behind some of these strict guidelines.
“I believe that if we put in place the proper guidelines and rules surrounding this issue, such as masks required, proper social distancing, standing with your households only, and so on, then we could make this (fan support) work,” she said. “I don’t fully understand how this differs from outdoor gatherings that have been taking place.”
To clear up confusion, Steve Lewis, director of strategic communications and operations at the NE10 provided some information regarding decisions and if they were made by the league or the college.
“Everything (regarding off-campus visitors) was agreed upon by the league,” he said. As for the College’s decision to restrict St. Michael’s students, “It would depend on local guidance from their community and the state of Vermont. They have their own autonomy to decide.”
There has been no further communication on whether or not these restrictions will be lifted if cases on campus stay containable. The NE10 is constantly working on lifting guidelines before the spring season comes to a close.
“This is the most central topic we have currently and we meet on a weekly-basis to discuss” Lewis said.
Until that time comes, fans can watch spring games by tuning in to NE10 coverage.