Winter sports competitions canceled due to COVID-19

The Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) has canceled all competitions for winter sports due to COVID-19. 

At FSU, the men’s and women’s basketball teams and men’s ice hockey team will only be able to practice, condition, and train during their normal season time. 

According to the MASCAC press release, these opportunities will not use a year of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) eligibility and will follow all state recommended guidelines. 

The FSU press release said the decision was made after reviewing the guidelines from Massachusetts and the NCAA, as well as consulting with the MASCAC presidents, and athletic directors and trainers. 

Mike Bailey, head ice hockey coach, said, “I think having the season canceled is a huge disappointment to everyone involved. The student-athletes have been working hard training daily with the hopes that COVID numbers would decrease enough for the season to start at the first of the new year. 

“To put that much time and effort day-in and day-out and then get the news that we won’t be able to compete this season is tough to take,” he added.

Bill Raynor, head men’s basketball coach, said, “I feel especially bad for our seniors who will not get the opportunity to compete their senior season, however, given the pandemic, safety and health of all is the most important thing we can do at this time.”

Bailey said, “In the end, I don’t think the cancellation of the season took any of us by surprise watching as the Fall athletics on campus were canceled prior. We all pay close attention to what’s happening around us, with the spike in positive cases across the country, things were not looking good.”

Walter Paschal, head women’s basketball coach and home events coordinator, said he is “keeping [his] fingers crossed that we can get the spring sports to be able to play.”

Senior ice hockey forward Soren Colstrup said, “I do think the school athletic program could have been much more transparent with the decision-making process. Athletes were told certain dates that ended up being rumors and I think the added anticipation really affected a lot of athletes, especially with the election and the stress of academics in mind.”

The MASCAC press release said the risks were too large for a season to happen.

Senior women’s basketball guard Sophia Church said, “The team has been holding Zooms since May and we discussed possibilities like this one. It was disheartening news but expected, honestly. We wished for a different outcome. … However, what is most important right now is safety and health. There is nothing any of us can do with these circumstances.

“I live with five of my teammates in an apartment, so we have had conversations and have come to be OK with the news,” she added.

Senior ice hockey defenseman Walker Hamilton said, “Finding out was tough. We had an idea it was coming because everything seemed to be trending that way, but when it became official, it truly hurt.”

Junior men’s basketball guard John Calton said, “I was disappointed and upset. I had some personal and team goals that I wanted to achieve this year, but I believe the school took the best precautions for all the student athletes’ safety.”

Colstrup said, “I was most looking forward to my parents being able to watch me play for the first time. My parents live in Minnesota and they were planning to come to Massachusetts for my senior night, which would have been fun.”

With the season canceled, many of the coaches are focused on holding skill and conditioning sessions. 

“We will plan on working on our strength and conditioning with off-ice workouts and hope to be able to return to the ice once it’s safe,” said Bailey. “We will get together as a team for various team-building activities.”

Paschal said his team has “had some workouts as a team and [are] hoping to have some more when we get back second semester to get ready for next year.”

The coaching staff and athletic department staff are willing to provide support for student-athletes according to the FSU press release. 

Bailey said he recommends student-athletes “stay positive and keep working hard. It’s so important to have balance in your life, work hard in the classroom, be good to your family and friends, and make healthy choices. 

“When you get news like this about your season being canceled, it is so important to lean on all of the other positives in your life to get you through,” he added.

Raynor said, “My message to all student-athletes is to take this time to improve their skills.

“I would also offer that they make sure they continue to perform academically. When life throws you lemons, make lemonade!” he added.

Junior women’s basketball guard Liana Cunningham said she plans to use this time as a “rebuilding year.

“The season may be at a pause but there’s still a lot of improvement we as players need to develop,” said Cunningham. “A year is a long time off from playing, but even during the season you practice more than you actually play – playing is an added bonus. We can’t change the outcome of this season, but we can do everything in our power to be ready for the next one.”

Calton said, “My plan in place for the season is to continue to get better, whether it be on the basketball court or in the weight room.”

Colstrup said, “In place of the season, I plan to focus more on another interest of mine – music. I play in a band with my brother and another friend of mine, so the void of sports will be filled with music for sure.”

Church said, “Times like these are times we could have never predicted, so making the best out of it is the only option.”

Many had pieces of advice for their teammates.

“You should do your best to stick together as a team through these tough times, and you should all work together to achieve success,” said Cunningham. “Nothing worth having comes easy and it is extremely important to appreciate the opportunities we are given whenever they are offered.”

Hamilton said he encourages his teammates to “play every game like it’s your last because it could possibly be your last time having the opportunity to play the sport we love.”

Calton said, “Some advice I would give to my teammates and any athletes at FSU would be to control what you can control. The season getting canceled was out of our control but what we can control is working out every day, staying in shape, and keeping our grades up so we will be ready for the upcoming season.”

For seniors, many are looking forward to graduation and the future.

“I personally am looking forward to graduating and moving on,” said Church. “This has been rough, especially after the news about basketball being canceled.”

Hamilton said, “I’m really looking forward to seeing what the future holds for all of us. As seniors, it goes fast and I’m looking forward to watching all my teammates continue to pursue their dreams, whether that includes hockey or not. 

“We were a tight group of guys through the ups and downs, but I’m thankful for having all of them in my life.”