This past month, the presidents of each of the 11 NESCAC schools reached the unfortunate, yet unanimous decision to cancel all conference competitions for fall sports this year. In an official release, the NESCAC stated that they will “continue to work together to seek creative ways to provide meaningful athletic opportunities for our students.” At Amherst, fall athletes are still permitted to practice in small groups so long that they adhere to the school’s health directives, and members of winter and spring sports teams are also allowed to work with their teams and coaches during the fall. But plans for the resumption of the fall season are currently unclear, as details are still being worked out among the NESCAC.
This cancelation of the fall season comes as extremely disappointing news for Amherst athletics, as many teams looked primed for big seasons. The women’s soccer team sought to defend their NESCAC title, while the men’s team seemed ready for another strong year following a record breaking season in which they finished in second place at the NCAA Division III National Championship. The men’s and women’s cross country teams were also poised for strong starts to their seasons as well.
While competitions have ceased, the Amherst athletics wheel is still spinning: the college hired four new coaches during the offseason: Marlon Sears, a former Columbia University associate head coach, will take over the men’s basketball program; Valerie Jones was named head coach of the women’s volleyball squad, arriving at Amherst after coaching the Clark Atlanta University team; previous Dartmouth assistant Busani Xaba looks to lead both the men’s and women’s squash programs; and Rashad Devoe, from Hampton University, will look to build on the men’s lacrosse team’s seventh overall ranking in Division III lacrosse. Additionally, Elizabeth Davis was announced as the head coach of the men’s and women’s golf programs earlier this month. Davis has been head coach of the women’s golf program since the 2016-17 season and has now been promoted to head coach of the men’s program as well.
This fall is a confusing time for Amherst student athletes. Rules and restrictions are still being refined, as well as timetables for a potential return to play. Even everyday training faces uncertainty; the weight room’s 45-minute slot sign up sheet fills up within a few hours, and group practices are limited to strictly coach-supervised small groups. Necessary social distancing protocols remove the passing, the camaraderie-building workouts, and the rest of what makes sports the ultimate manifestation of teamwork. And yet Amherst athletes can only hope that those same regulations bring us closer to a potential sports restart.