Back in March, the country nearly shut down.
That included sports, and more specifically, Taylor Athletics and the Crossroads League.Teams lost their shot at nationals and conferences.
Now, the Trojans are back.
A July 28 announcement from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) stated that the fall national championships would be postponed to the spring. However, they left the option for individual leagues to play fall seasons open.
The last sentence indicated that the Crossroads League could continue with their fall sports.
“The Crossroads League is committed to holding athletic contests for the 2020-2021 school year,” read the Crossroads League official statement on the fall sports season. “The commitment follows the current guidelines established by our local and state health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the NAIA.”
That means that men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, cross country and the fall golf seasons are all on tap for the coming months.
However, football, who competes in the Mid-States Football Association, had its season moved to Spring 2021.
“The opportunity to get back and be together and play. I know all of our athletes are going to be incredibly excited about that next week,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Kyle Gould.
As athletes return to campus and begin practices with their teammates and coaches, they will be able to play their respective organized sports for the first time in months.
Volleyball Head Coach Erin Luthy thinks the layoff will produce a passion and appreciation for the sports that athletes had to go such a long time without.
“It’s a newfound love,” Luthy said. “This isn’t something that’s a right, it's a privilege. It’s something that can be easily taken away from us. Even just being able to practice again. So we’re excited and I’m getting excited.”
Senior soccer player Jack McNeil said he hasn’t had the chance to play a full game of soccer during the months away from school and sports.
“Being back and finally being able to play with people, I’m excited to be able to do that again,” McNeil said. “I haven’t played with more than three people at once for five or six months.”
The postponement of the fall championships to the spring leaves fall sports teams at Taylor in an interesting position. If they win the conference, they will have time to gear up and compete before the spring. If they are on the edge of gaining an at-large birth to a national tournament, they will have to wait and prepare for months before knowing if they will have a shot to compete at a national level.
With sports starting up, new safety protocols and adjustments will have to be made. CDC guidelines and other rules will have to be followed intentionally and consistently if college athletics are to happen this fall.
Gould said the health of the athletes and the successful completion of Taylor’s first semester back on campus were the athletic department’s top two priorities this fall.
“Every athlete will be screened every day before practice,” Gould said. “We’re following CDC guidelines at both the local and state levels. As long as what we do allows for the health and safety of our student-athletes, which I 100% believe it does.”
Practices and games will look different for athletes. Locker rooms will need to be spaced out, masks will need to be worn outside of competition and symptoms will need to be monitored.
Luthy said that volleyball will have to use more courts in practice and in pregame warm-ups to keep a proper distance. She also mentioned consistent disinfecting of all equipment used in matches and practices.
Taylor athletes were also required to test negative for COVID-19 before returning to campus.
“Just tell us what to do and we’ll do it,” McNeil said. “We just want to play.”
Now comes the next challenge — Staying focused on the task and season ahead of the teams.
Even though things may be changing on the daily in the world around them, the fall sports teams have to prepare like it is a normal season.
Taylor will open its fall athletic season on Sept. 5 with two road volleyball matches and a home men’s soccer match.
“There is so much uncertainty and chaos going on, but God’s got it,” Luthy said. “We need to be content and joy-filled in the moments because we don’t know what the next day will bring. One thing that I say in volleyball, that’s not COVID-related at all, is that all we can control is the controllables, and I think that speaks even louder right now.”