By Mataeo Smith & Olivia Bousquet
SUNY Plattsburgh student-athletes experienced many unknowns about competing and practicing since the beginning of the pandemic, but Tuesday brought some positive news for cardinal athletes. In an email from SUNY Plattsburgh President Alexander Enyedi, he announced the return of spring sports. This included baseball, softball, track and field, women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s lacrosse.
SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced the decision Tuesday at a press conference in SUNY Oswego in consultation with the 10 SUNY presidents in attendance—with Enyedi being among them. Soon after, the SUNY Presidents were advised by the athletic director and faculty of their individual college.
“The decision involved a lot of people,” Athletics Director Micheal Howard said. “We all provided our advice to the chancellor and the president and then the decision was made to go forward.”
Fall and winter sports, like basketball and volleyball, have been practicing, but Enyedi’s email did not give them OK for schedules and intercollegiate competition. Student-athletes and coaches are required to socially distance and wear masks at all times when not actively competing.
No spectators will be allowed to attend sporting events, but it is subject to change in accordance with state, SUNY and health department guidelines.
“[The coaches] are able to actually contribute now, which is really nice,” Track and Field captain Aislyn McDonough said, about her return to semi-normal practices. “You do get more one-on-one attention from them just ‘cause the pods are so small, so that’s another benefit from [pod practices].”
Teams have been doing pod practices, which is a smaller group of teammates to allow for ample distance and reduced contact.
McDonough practices three times a week for an hour with her pod, but it’s “difficult to fit everything into an hour.” Along with short practices, the track and field team was not allowed to use any equipment, which reduced contact and cleaning of each individual piece of equipment.
“We’re into the second week now, which were pods split in half, doing drills and stuff,” Jordan Kastanis, a senior on the women’s basketball team, said. “We have to stay six-feet apart, no contact and get temperature checks before we start. We make sure that we fill out our daily COVID screening and then there is the pool testing every week. So, hopefully next week we can start scrimmaging and doing contact stuff soon.”
According to McDonough and Kastanis, they feel the rules and regulations SUNY Plattsburgh has put in place for sports has made them comfortable to continue practicing. But for the two upperclassmen with years of pre-pandemic collegiate competition experience, they are trying their hardest to help recruits and underclassmen get the best experience possible.
“The captains have been organizing a lot of team bonding virtually, just to try and get to know the underclassmen a little bit better, so it can be more comfortable for the day that we do combine,” McDonough said. “We’ll try to do small outings as safely as we can just to get that team environment back. Like, we’ve played pictionary and we are doing bingo this week. We are trying a bunch of virtual things on Zoom to stay connected.”
Once spring sports begin to move forward, athletes, coaches, officials, media members and game-day personnel are expected to wear a mask, except for the athletes who participated in the sporting event.
“I’m happy for the underclassmen that they get to play a little bit, so they don’t come in next season then are like ‘wow I haven’t done organized basketball in a very long time,’ so I think it’s good,” Kastanis said.