By Sarah Brill, Science and Technology Editor
Yeshiva University is home to 15 NCAA sports teams — seven women’s teams and eight men’s teams — the majority of which play in the NCAA Division III Skyline Conference. With the semester starting online and the future looking as hazy as it does now, student-athletes are left with limited information regarding what their respective sports are planning to do for the fall season.
On August 11, Marty Craft, Director of Athletics Compliance, sent out a try-out form to all of the student-athletes which, when filled out, will allow the coaches to get a rough estimate of how many players are planning to return and participate in this year’s sports.
Bess Goldstein, SCW ‘21, who plays both softball (a spring sport) and soccer (a fall sport), commented that as of yet neither of her coaches has assigned in-home workouts. She added: “it’s sad for freshmen, and [the sports will] not [be] the same.”
Rookies, who hear about the various sports options and associated tryout dates through the mass emails that students receive daily, will unfortunately have no opportunity to compete in fall sports until next school year — which begs the question: will this unusual situation impact the 2021-2022 win-loss records of those sports teams?
Michael Stark, SSSB ‘22, a men’s volleyball player, echoed Goldstein’s sentiment and also reported that, “to [his] knowledge,” his coaches had not assigned sport-specific activities.
Men’s baseball head coach Marty Craft told the YU Observer that he is “[t]rying to get [student-athletes] 30 hours of coaching contact in order to earn full credit for the Fall. On the baseball side, we will start up as soon as [he has] a decent number of the tryout agreements.” He also hopes to “start doing two team meetings per week, and some additional individual and small group meetings as well for position[-]specific work.”
When asked his opinion on playing sports online, fourth-year baseball player Yosef Rosenfield, YC ‘21, said: “To play a sport is hardly to engage in the theoretical. Even the mental aspects of a game should be practiced in the physical presence of those situations … It’s great [however] that the coaches are at least doing something so students who actually need the credit can earn it.”
Women’s soccer head coach Marc Zharnest had a plan similar to Marty Craft’s, telling the YU Observer: “…the hope is that athletes return to campus after the holidays in October, …so [with] who[m]ever is around we will be doing live socially-distanced practices, and most importantly, we are doing virtual meetings.
One of the most important aspects of playing a sport at the collegiate level is getting proper training that will reduce the risk of injury. Many of YU’s male and female student-athletes reported that both Emma Irwin and Xavier Alzate, athletic trainers on the female and male campuses, respectively, sent in-home workouts over the summer for student-athletes to complete on their own time.
According to Danielle DeStaso, head coach of women’s softball, “as of right now, softball is expected to participate in training virtually with Emma … ” DeStaso said further that she “will be sending out a plan of drills … and will be having a mandatory check-in meeting weekly, and in the spring, as of now, we have a shortened schedule to play a season.”
Joe Bednarsh, Director of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation, answered the YU Observer’s questions about our return to campus with regard to fall and spring sports. In preparation for the upcoming season, per Bednarsh’s statement “our coaches are working on practice plans that will work over Zoom until after the chagim, at which point we will transition to in-person practices. Xavier and Emma are also working with the coaches on strength and conditioning programs so that all the student-athletes can come back to campus ready to hit the ground running.”
Bednarsh also remarked: “we have been working all summer and even now with multiple plans so that we are ready to switch between plans as the situation with COVID-19 changes. We are taking the position that we want to be ready to make sure that the memory of this season will be something other than the coronavirus for all our student-athletes. Skyline has cancelled the fall championships, so we will not be able to compete on a championship track in any of the sports with the exception of golf and women’s tennis, which have been moved to the spring.”
He concluded by saying that “it is our intention to start winter sport practice as soon as students return to campus, and we are putting plans in place to do it as safely as possible. Assuming things with the virus are on a positive trajectory, I don’t see a reason why we can’t have a full, robust season in the winter and spring. I am hopeful that by the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021, we will have a vaccine — and with that vaccine, a return to a more typical look to our spring season. Even if we have not yet reached that point, softball, baseball, tennis, and golf lend themselves pretty well to social distancing, so I think those sports provide a very positive outlook.”
In tandem with the above statement to the YU Observer, men’s basketball head coach Elliot Steinmetz expressed similar ideas, stating that “[u]nofficially it looks like a January start for competitions. Practices are scheduled to start late October following various NCAA and medical protocols. But obviously we will see how things go leading up to that. The world is a weird place right now. Everything seems to change often. Our athletic department has been awesome about adjusting and keeping us posted on anything going on. Hopefully[,] they’re able to continue to plan and do what’s needed to [put] the safety of our students first and hopefully [give them] the [opportunity] to compete as well.”
As for students who have received no word from their coaches, Joe Bednarsh wrote in an email sent out to student-athletes on September 18 that “in anticipation of what we expect to be a wonderful year for us, as we navigate the unchartered territory of athletic competition in the COVID-19 landscape … we have set up a Zoom call for Tuesday night, September 22nd at 8 p.m.” During the call, Bednarsh addressed student questions and introduced new student-athlete protocol regarding games, practices and the workout facilities.
The athletics department has been working hard with the coaches to create a regimen so that student-athletes can remain engaged with their respective sports and receive credit. Based on Joe Bednarsh’s communication, student-athletes should be hearing from coaches and the athletics administration in the near future regarding what their plan is going forward.
Photo Source: Yosef Rosenfield