The coronavirus pandemic ended the seasons for hundreds of Montclair State University spring sports athletes in March. Now, fall sports athletes are praying they do not suffer the same fate.
With health officials believing that the pandemic could reach a “second wave,” this could discourage many universities from letting their fall sports athletes compete in the upcoming season. This has caused anxiety and fear across collegiate sports concerned that their seasons could either be canceled or ended abruptly.
Many Red Hawk athletes will be happy to hear that intercollegiate sports will be returning for the time being. On July 15, the university outlined their plans for their intercollegiate athletics and other aspects of campus life moving forward, dubbed the “Red Hawk Restart.” This plan reveals that athletics will resume at Montclair State, however, strict social distancing and face covering will be enforced during games, practices, locker rooms, etc.
The New Jersey Athletic Conference, however, still has not officially revealed their plans for next season, leaving uncertainty in terms of how many in-conference games will be played, if at all.
What’s even more uncertain is how ready the players will be in jumping back into fall sports, as many student-athletes typically use the spring and summer to stay in good shape for their respective sports.
Typically, junior forward/midfielder Yael Yonah and the women’s field hockey team go through a rigorous spring season to prepare themselves for the regular fall season. However, with the coronavirus pandemic still occurring, this has changed drastically.
“Our original spring season consisted of five practices a week and lifts with our strength trainer, with a tournament at the end of every spring season,” Yonah said. “Instead, our trainer provides us with a voluntary workout twice a week where we are given an option to join a Zoom workout.”
However, Yonah’s biggest concern is not the extreme changes to her preseason training, but the regular season in general.
“I know I can speak for the whole team when I say that we work extremely hard in the off-season to improve and prepare in advance for our intense preseason and competitive fall schedule,” Yonah said.
She further expressed on the tough times the world is going through at the moment.
“Even though these times are uncertain and our team is extremely disappointed, our team is optimistic and hopeful that we will be able to take this set back and use it to work even harder,” Yonah said.
The loss of spring training is not just affecting the field hockey team, as the football team will also have to adjust without their normal spring training. For college football teams across the country, spring training often consists of multiple weeks of team practices as coaches often will introduce new or improved game plans to help improve their team.
Junior linebacker Brennan Ray believes that team chemistry, along with cardio and fitness, can be negatively affected by the loss of spring ball. However, he is confident that the team is addressing these concerns.
“Our team still talks daily [in our groupchats],” Ray said. “We are discussing football and we always know how each one of us is doing.”
Ray went into detail about how the team has been staying in shape during the pandemic.
“A lot of teams will struggle with weights and conditioning, but I know our team has been getting the job done,” Ray said. “The majority of the guys do have at-home workouts and if not we do send out body-weight workouts that kids have been getting done. Our coaches are also sending us spring ball packets to see what we have to get done.”
One question that has been on the minds of many athletes, coaches and fans is if spectators will be allowed at athletic events during the fall sports season. Athletic events such as football and soccer games, which are two popular fall sports at Montclair State, are known for having an excellent home field advantage due to their passionate fan bases.
This was put to rest with the Red Hawk Restart plan, which will allow spectators at outdoor events so long as the total occupancy of outdoor venue does not exceed state regulations. It is still unknown if indoor sports will allow fans in attendance.
Social distancing guidelines for athletic events put out by the university includes bleachers being sectioned off for fans, along with staggered seating to encourage social distancing.
For the men’s and women’s soccer teams, they have the luxury of playing in one of the biggest collegiate soccer stadiums on the East Coast. Over 5,000 spectators can fit into Pittser Field at Montclair State University Soccer Park.
Social distancing would be much easier at the soccer park, according to women’s soccer incoming junior defender Laura Noseworthy.
“We are very fortunate to have a lot of bleacher seating for guests to come to watch our games, so I feel as though social distancing for spectators won’t be an issue,” Noseworthy said.
Although the fans might enjoy the comfort of social distancing, the players will not have that luxury.
“On the other hand, while playing with soccer, you’re almost always in contact with another player,” Noseworthy said.
While we may not know how fall sports at Montclair State will play out, it is safe to say athletes are eager to get back on the field by any means necessary.