NWC athletes may return to campus next month

Posted 6/23/20

Junior college athletes are one step closer to returning to campus.

NJCAA President Christopher Parker announced a return-to-play plan on Friday, outlining the procedures for athletes’ …

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NWC athletes may return to campus next month

Posted

Junior college athletes are one step closer to returning to campus.

NJCAA President Christopher Parker announced a return-to-play plan on Friday, outlining the procedures for athletes’ return to school. Junior colleges are allowed to open dorms to student-athletes starting July 18, when they will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

But for Northwest College, the return will likely be later.

“I don’t think we’ll go back that early,” NWC Athletic Director Brian Erickson said Monday, suggesting that the college’s student-athletes might return a week later and potentially start practices on Aug. 8.

While NWC’s return may be delayed, fall sports’ schedules are expected not to change. Volleyball and soccer competitions are expected to go on as planned, starting Aug. 20.

It is the winter sports, such as basketball and wrestling, that will likely see the most change. For example, wrestling is expected to begin in February and not have any preseason competitions, while basketball will likely begin play earlier, in mid-October.

More than just schedule changes, this will be an unprecedented year for JUCO athletics as a whole. Early on in their returns, athletes could struggle with the mental taxation of the mandatory quarantine period, according to Erickson.

“You hear in the news where people are struggling more mentally than physically through this whole thing,” the AD said. “Our volleyball team is going to hang out, but you’re not going to hang out with the soccer team.

“If you’re in the dorm, you have to have a mask on, you have to keep 6 feet, all those things,” he said. “These could be different loops in this thing that could affect them mentally.”

In addition to the mental drainage, athletes will likely return to campus in worse shape than peak performance, as a result of quarantine.

“We have a lot of things from the athletic training staff trying to work them back into it,” Erickson said. “It’s more of preparing them again. They’ve been in quarantine for enough the last few months when gyms are closed.”

Another potential roadblock could be road competitions in neighboring states. If public health restrictions are different, games could possibly be axed from the Trappers’ schedule.

“We want to make sure when we cross that border that we’re going to have similar regulations to keep our student-athletes safe,” Erickson said. “If we have to play a game in Colorado, what steps do we take when we go down there, or do we not play the game?”

Running an athletic department during a pandemic is also not cheap. With thermometers and other equipment necessary for ensuring proper health, COVID-19 will undoubtedly increase the school’s expenses.

Even so, Erickson stressed how vital these guidelines are during this return phase.

“If we’re going to treat them [student-athletes] like a family, then their health and safety is really, really important,” he said. “And you have to stick to this, this and this. We’re taking these precautions to keep them safe.”

Erickson and other athletic directors in the NJCAA Region 9-North will meet on Wednesday to further discuss the state of Wyoming’s policies for bringing junior-college athletes back to campus. Specific details about Northwest College’s plan are expected to be announced by the end of the week.

With the pandemic, there are various hurdles that could cause a bumpy return, but Friday’s statement was still a step forward for the Trappers and other junior college student-athletes.

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