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Time Is Running Out on Fall Sports

Time is running out on fall sports! Athletic directors, coaches, and administrators are struggling to move forward with fall sports in a way that is safe for athletes. Although kids who are college-age and younger are safe from the extreme effects of COVID 19, there is significant pressure to be overly cautious. The sales staff at Anthem Sports talks to coaches and ADs around the country every day and this is what we are seeing (Anthem Sports is a national distributor of team sports equipment).

According to Anthem Sports President, Mark Ferrara, “Quote activity is down over 50% for this time of year. Typically schools are ramping up purchases for fall sports, but many coaches and ADs that we talk to are still unsure if they will even have a season.”

With fall athletes just weeks away from their report-to-camp dates, it seems that the majority of schools still haven’t figured out the way forward. Conferences across every division - at both the high school and collegiate levels- have made different decisions regarding fall sports. Some are optimistic to resume play as normal as possible, others have outlined plans for a modified season, and some have elected to cancel fall sports entirely.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

At the collegiate level:

  • Division III school’s Bowdoin, Williams, Amherst, MIT, Sarah Lawrence, UMass-Boston, Wellesley, and Williams have all canceled fall seasons.
  • Division III school The College of New Jersey announced that it will not compete in “high-risk sports” such as football, soccer, field hockey, basketball and wrestling.
  • Division II school Morehouse College (HBCU) and the California Collegiate Athletic Conference (which consists of 13 Division II institutions) also canceled fall sports.
  • The Patriot League (Division I) announced they would have a modified season, one that was significantly condensed and with various travel restrictions.
  • The Ivy League announced today that they will not have fall sports and will evaluate the feasibility of playing in the spring.
  • Power 5 conference leaders announced that they won’t be ready to make a decision until the end of July. West Virginia’s Athletic Director noted that "college sports and sports in general [...aren’t] trending the way we were hoping it would."

At the High School/Youth sports level:

  • The CEO of Little League Baseball reported that 40 states have been offering some semblance of a season throughout the summer and will continue to do so into the fall. Baseball is considered a low-risk sport, making it conducive to COVID protocols.
  • The National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS) categorized sports into varying risk levels and plans to have a phased return of high school athletics. (For each state’s respective plan, see Maxpreps article here).

How do athletes prepare for what’s to come?

As more schools begin to announce their plans for the upcoming season, it’s apparent that fall athletes’ future remains uncertain. How do they train for a season that’s start date and duration are unknown? With the fate of their season up in the air, athletes are faced with unprecedented challenges.

Athletes need to be mentally prepared for:

  • An unconventional schedule (It’s likely that it will be shortened, constantly modified, and have various travel restrictions).
  • Evolving rules and mandates.
  • The possibility of the season being suspended (or canceled) at any moment.

Athletes need to be physically prepared for:

  • A fluid start date: whether fall sports return in August or months from now, it’s important that athletes ready to go at any time.
  • Staying healthy (continue with injury prevention exercises/ taking COVID precautions).
  • Maintaining endurance.

What’s the solution?

Going forward with fall sports - even with an unconventional approach - will likely end in the season being disrupted. This already happened to the universities who elected to resume summer workouts. LSU, Clemson, UCLA, and Kansas State were among the athletic programs that held voluntary workouts. Within weeks, dozens of athletes tested positive for the virus, and practices were suspended. While it would be ideal to begin fall sports as soon as possible, it seems that they would be inevitably interrupted, and even more likely, canceled altogether. So if not an unconventional approach to a fall season … what’s the solution? It seems that the best way to maintain the integrity of fall sports is to postpone athletics until the Spring season. While this would present its own set of challenges, schools would have ample time to devise a plan.

Pros of moving fall sports to the spring:

  • Higher likelihood of having a full, uncompromised season.
  • More time to schedule, prepare financially, and develop COVID protocols.
  • Most importantly, it will put athletes at a lower risk (optimistically, a vaccine or treatment option will be more accessible by then).

Time is Running Out

Could schools go forward with fall sports? While they would technically be able to do so, school administrators are not equipped to handle the logistical challenges that would come with that decision. Not only are schools dealing with the normal school year preparation but the financial ramifications and looming costs of playing sports this fall are daunting for most school systems. Elementary schools, high schools, and universities will be transformed in the upcoming months to accommodate new safety mandates. Time is running out, and it’s time schools turn their attention to playing sports in the the spring.

July 8, 2020
Anthem Sports Staff

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