Mateo Vasquez ’21
There is some encouragement in the realm of Division II and Division III schools as there are now more efforts to expand intercollegiate competitions with the improving conditions surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. A Division III conference that recently made the decision to reopen intercollegiate play was the New England Collegiate Conference. This conference has not held competitions for almost a year now. However, the conference has identified that there are some key components to this spring season that will be very different from past seasons. Primarily, the conference will be entertaining limited competitions and limited to strictly league-only matches. Another factor that plays an important aspect in hosting competitions is that the matches will start later in the season, so that any Covid-19 related issues on campuses can be addressed appropriately. This delay will also give colleges adequate time to prepare to send athletes to other campuses for competitions.
Athletes within these conferences are required to follow strict and very precise testing protocols. These strict protocols include, but are not limited to, random mid-week testing in addition to rapid tests upon return from competitions. A mandatory quarantine is also required upon return from competition to ensure that the spread of Covid-19 is kept to a minimum. Hence, with a quarantine in place after games, a constraint is placed on the athletes and programs that limits the amount of games that they will play in a season.
The Northeast 10 Conference also applied similar protocols for games and testing, but also left it up to the individual college presidents to make the decision to refrain from competition, along with the ability to choose to not compete at any point in the season if they felt that the situation was not safe. Many of the conferences that have chosen to allow for a spring season have dedicated the weekends to competing only, and the rest of the week is available for quarantines and testing protocols in order to ensure that cases do not spread from campus to campus.
A rather important part of ensuring these changes can facilitate a spring season for many colleges and programs is ensuring that the rapid testing on campuses is readily available, as this method allows for easy transitions to and from competitions to limit the spread. Matt Schnieder, a baseball player at Assumption College described the situation in his own words, relaying that “it’s going to be really exciting just to be able to play games… It’s almost like a high school season you have to take advantage of every opportunity out there.”
All of the conferences that are planning to participate in this year’s spring season and have games scheduled are subject to change. However, if all goes well, this sets many Division II and Division III conferences up for a strong start to the fall semester.
With many of these other conferences moving forward with their athletic seasons, there is some hope for the NESCAC. While the NESCAC has not made or released a final decision, the opportunity for competitions is highly likely, especially with the new rapid test centers on campus and the adjusted testing schedules for athletes, which allows tests to get back sooner for practices than were available in the fall. Other NESCAC teams, like those at Hamilton College, are also preparing for competition with schools, making tentative plans for later in the semester.
While there is no doubt that the spring season, if it occurs, will be very different than years past, the level of competition and the sheer opportunity to compete is a priceless experience for those athletes that have had their seasons in the past year taken away from them unexpectedly. The opportunity to compete is not something that any athlete will take for granted. As many athletes within the Northeast 10 and other conferences have stated, they are just grateful that they will be able to do something within their respective season and that even the ability to play a limited amount of league competitions is a priceless experience worth pursuing this spring.