As we head into a new school year filled with uncertainty, excitement, and hope, the Waltonian’s Maggie Fleming sat down with Athletic Director Eric McNelly to discuss how Eastern Athletics is addressing the changes that the Eagles will see this year.
On July 24th, the Mid-Atlantic Conference announced that they have suspended fall sports for 2020. This devastated many Eastern students and
members of the community, as many of them look forward to the fall athletic season.
Senior women’s volleyball player Kylie McCusker stated that without the sport that she loves, she felt like she “had lost [her] identity as [an] athlete”. In essence, many upperclassmen are mourning their seasons as well as their sport. Many athletes have had to “retire” now that they have hung up their jerseys for a final time.
McNelly seems hopeful for what is to come, and he reminded students that if the seasons are canceled, they still have that year of NCAA eligibility. For many upperclassmen who are thinking about a graduate degree, this means that they can still play the sport they love on a collegiate level.
While the community is moving on from a lost fall season, McNelly and the entire Eastern Athletics team is working to make sure that the spring athletes get the season they crave so much. “I try to find every good possibility in a bad situation,” said McNelly. “And that’s where we’re at. What I would tell our
athletes is that you have the opportunity to train with the most qualified strength and conditioning coach in Division III with the most qualified coaches that we can give you at Eastern. You get to train in a safe environment to prepare yourself for the spring when it’s time to compete.”
During our conversation with McNelly, he discussed the protocols and regulations that not only Eastern, but the NCAA, must follow. For example, McNelly explained that the Fitness Center is taking extra measures to ensure the health and safety of everyone who uses the facilities, not just student-athletes.
The Fitness Center has been limited to a maximum capacity of 25 people, and each person has 120 square feet that they can work with. Additionally, masks or face coverings will be required of everyone inside the facilities. While this is not necessarily ideal for everyone, McNelly stated that this is simply Phase 1 of a multistep
plan, and if everyone does their part, Phase 2 will be on the horizon.
In Phase 2, groups of 50 will be allowed in the Fitness Center. McNelly stated that most of the teams would be able to train together once Phase 2 has been reached (the exception being the combined Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Teams). In order to reach this phase, students must remember to wear a face mask, wash
their hands on a regular basis, and stay safe during the year. While there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the spring semester, winter sports, and spring sports, one thing is certain: the Eastern community cannot wait to have sports back.
Sources: MAC Sports