Spring-sport athletes, coaches ‘heartbroken’ by loss of second consecutive season
Both coaches and athletes said it will be challenging to watch their peers compete while their teams cannot play.
The Dartmouth softball team, which has not played a game in over a year, will not play any Ivy League opponents this spring.
On Feb. 18, The Ivy League announced the cancellation of all conference athletic competition this spring, marking the second consecutive canceled spring season and the fourth straight season without athletic competition.
Both student-athletes and coaches said the announcement did not come as a surprise.
“We expected it deep down,” baseball player Ubaldo Lopez ’21 said. “But when they told us, it was still kind of shocking.”
Softball player Billie McFadyen ’22 said she and her teammates similarly tempered their expectations ahead of the decision so that a spring cancellation would not “completely destroy” them.
Men’s tennis head coach Xander Centenari and women’s lacrosse head coach Alex Frank said it has been difficult for their teams to watch other schools across the country continue to compete while Ivy League competition remains on hold. The Ivy League contains eight of the 10 Division I men’s basketball teams not competing this season, while the other 347 play.
Frank empathized with her players, calling the absence of competition a “very hard situation,” though she added that she respects the Ivy League’s decision. Her team had been ranked No. 16 and No. 19 in the nation in preseason polls earlier this year after finishing last season at No. 7 in an Inside Lacrosse poll.
“While I am heartbroken for our student-athletes, we understand that the Ivy League makes decisions based on providing a safe and healthy experience for all students,” Frank said. “We as a program and as a staff just have to understand we have to find new ways to get better that may not necessarily involve being able to compete.”
Despite the disappointment of missing Ivy League competition, some student-athletes have taken advantage of the extra time.
For instance, Frank noted that the team has had extra time to concentrate on individual skills and focus on each player’s areas of development. Centenari added that his student-athletes have had more time to focus on academics, resulting in better grades.
“We do what we can to make [practices] competition-like,” McFadyen said. “We’ll have little hitting games [and] little fielding games to make it feel like we’re competing not only with ourselves, but with our teammates.”
Though the Ivy League’s announcement canceled competition within the conference, the plan left open the option of local competition if schools eventually reach “phase four,” which permits full practice and competition. After starting the quarter in “phase one,” which allows for small group in-person activity, the school reverted back to “phase zero” — a total suspension of in-person practice — on Saturday amid a spike in COVID-19 cases on campus.
Although many student-athletes and coaches believe reaching phase four and competing locally is unlikely, teams are staying ready for competition while awaiting more information. The limited number of Division I schools within the permitted 100-mile radius further complicates the timeline. Athletics director Peter Roby previously cited the University of New Hampshire, the University of Vermont, the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Merrimack College as potential local competitors if the College reaches phase four.
“It’s still too early to really comment on what our decision will be, but certainly we’re excited for the possibility that we could compete,” Centenari said. “If the opportunity does arise, and we feel like it’s a great opportunity for our players, then we’ll do it.”
Student-athletes have shifted their priorities to ensuring their teams are ready to succeed when competition resumes. Lopez said that he and his senior teammates have focused more on mentoring the freshmen and instilling a team-first mentality.
McFadyen further emphasized the hard work her team has put in to stay prepared for next season.
“We have worked really hard on understanding that our motivation is more based on being together and growing our relationships, and that eventually in the future, we will have a team with a season,” McFadyen said. “We’re all pretty selfless in the fact that we’re going to make sure that our team is in the best spot possible to go out and compete with whatever girls that we have.”