NCAA to allow more communication between staff and student athletes this summer

By Taylor Wooten

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic the spring sports season was canceled, leaving fans and athletes looking on towards the fall.

But changes to fall activities are becoming a reality now, too, starting with the cancelation of summer activities. Camps have been canceled for football, volleyball, men’s soccer, and women’s soccer. The fall season is still uncertain.

The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, or HCAC, has been holding regular administrative meetings. The conference also assembled a group of athletic trainers from Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, the three states it serves.

HCAC Commissioner Jay Jones said the HCAC continues to monitor decisions made by state and local government as well as by each college campus relating to the fall semester.

From these meetings, Jones said most HCAC schools want to decide their plans for the fall sports season in early June. 

In a March 13 directive the NCAA gave each institution the flexibility to determine the “type, frequency and timing” of athletic staff interactions with student athletes. This order extends into the summer and includes virtual meetings, self-directed workouts recommended by coaches and discussion between institutional staff and student athletes involving workouts.

Head Volleyball Coach and Assistant Athletic Director Mary Johnston said the NCAA will allow volleyball to have meetings this summer, when contact between coaches and athletes over is normally limited. Athletes will pair these meetings with an 11-week home workout plan, which the athletes are given every summer.

Women’s soccer head coach Kim DeCesare said the positive side that has come out of the shutdowns is that she and the team have grown closer.

“The girls are relying on each other a lot more, and I’m really getting to know people individually,” DeCesare said.

The women’s soccer team has been meeting through Zoom twice a week as a means for DeCesare to check on the players and to educate them. DeCesare has brought in guest speakers, including a nutritionist to talk to the women and their families about eating healthy.

It is unclear whether training and athletic performance will be affected after the pandemic. Coaches are still sending out workouts and training plans, but access to parks and gyms remains limited. The ability to meet with teammates for practice is also hindered by social distancing guidelines.

The men’s soccer team typically holds a day-long summer camp in June for high school students to experience what it is like to be on the team. This experience gives them a chance to practice their skills, learn what they need to improve and a reason to look forward to the possibility of someday playing soccer at Franklin. Due to the pandemic this event has been canceled, but head coach Cody Graman hopes to hold it in the fall.

“There would be a fear [that in-season performance would be affected] if this was only happening to us, but it’s not,” DeCesare said

DeCesare, Graman, Johnston and Jones expressed hope that the fall season can go on as planned.

“I just want to reiterate how good of a job Franklin College has done,” DeCesare said. “I’ve heard nothing but positive things - and realistic things - from the college and from the athletic department.”

Head Football Coach Alan Hensell did not respond to a request for comment by publication.

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