By Taylor Viles & LJ VP LaFiura – Sports Editor & 1851 Staff
In a time when cancelations seem to be inevitable every single day, another victim has been taken: the winter sports season. Lasell’s announcement came on October 23, 11 days before the presidents’ council decided to make the same decision for the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. The counsel is made up of the head of each conference school.
“The day we found out was like attending a wake,” said interim women’s basketball head coach Neil Hatem. “We knew that we could still [practice] but when you know that you’re not going to compete, it takes a lot out of it.” Hatem recently took the reins of the team after the resignation of longtime Laser, Todd Montana.
Optimism for a winter season existed earlier in the semester, but as the winter approaches, Mass has begun to report more COVID-19 cases. As a result, the chances of seeing basketball and indoor track and field became increasingly bleak.
President Michael Alexander said one of the reasons for the cancellation is because of close contact and inability to compete outside. “Basketball is worse than soccer or field hockey, right? It’s indoors, it’s really close contact, you’re actually colliding with people and you can’t possibly play it with masks on,” he said. “It kind of became obvious.”
Director of Athletics Kristy Walter explained how continuous hurdles have squashed any possibility of a winter season. “It seems like [the NCAA] keeps moving the finish line,” she said, regarding the protocols and regulations. She also reinforced the number one priority on campus: student safety. Unless that could’ve been ensured, no plan would have come to fruition.
Walter is part of Lasell’s COVID-19 task force which meets twice a week to discuss ways to keep Lasell healthy while trying to reopen parts of the campus. She says there’s no roadmap to creating a perfect situation, but they take solace that Lasell has remained open while so many other schools have moved entirely online.
No matter how hard the task force tried to allow winter sports to be played, the potential risks outweighed the positives. Another task force member and Director of Health Services Richard Arnold said, “it was decided that that type of risk was too much of a threat to not just the athletes, but obviously everybody on campus.”
Communication has been key for the athletic department during the cancellation process as they worked with the coaches and kept the student-athletes informed. “They did collaborate with us and get our feedback about what was going to be best for our team,” said Hatem.
In terms of the spring season, President Alexander knows it’s going to be tough to play but doesn’t think a vaccine is the only way to restart competition. “If we can get the infection rates low enough and be assured that people were treated in a way that there weren’t going to be long term effects, then that might allow us to play,” he said. “We still have hopes up for the spring, but something’s gonna have to change for that to be successful.”
Remaining positive has been a point of focus for teams and coaches throughout the fall. “We have our goals set on the outdoor season [in the spring], having team competition where the seniors can compete,” said track and field coach Michael McGrane. “But if we don’t, then the process of…working hard together to become better athletes, learning more about yourself as an athlete and what your potential can be, the rewarding part of the experience.”
“I realized because I am coming back for my grad year I can always compete [then],” said senior track and field athlete Jordan Robertson. “That’s making me look forward to going to grad school here.”