The Hill From A Distance: Approaching a fall without athletic competition
This post is part of a blog series called The Hill From A Distance that highlights how the St. Olaf community is moving forward together, even when we’re apart. The series features messages from a variety of campus leaders — and this week Athletic Director Ryan Bowles shares an update on how student-athletes and coaches will face a fall without MIAC competitions.
Greetings from a home office, dreaming of the Hill.
In a typical year, when the calendar turns to August in the world of athletics, the anticipation of a new year is at its peak, as practice and games are soon to follow. As everyone knows, 2020 has been anything but typical — and this August doesn’t bring with it the same anticipation. Unfortunately, St. Olaf athletic teams will not be taking to the fields and courts this fall, as the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) announced the postponement of fall sports to the spring.
St. Olaf athletic teams will not be taking to the fields and courts this fall, as the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) announced the postponement of fall sports to the spring.
This difficult decision came after several months of meetings of the conferences athletic directors and senior woman administrators and many athletic-specific COVID-19 plans being drafted both on campuses and conference-wide. While the decision was difficult, it was the right decision.
If the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff is our priority, which it is, there was no way to safely participate in athletics this fall and still be able to say that we are doing everything we can to protect our community. We were able to do the right thing, even if it was difficult, and do right by the people we serve. Our ability to do the right thing, with the right priorities in place, is one of the things I’m most proud of about St. Olaf.
Prior to my arrival on the Hill five years ago, I spent 12 years at the Division 1 level at the University of Maryland. There, and at other Division 1 schools, it is not as simple as doing the right thing all of the time because of money, television contracts, and pressures to play. I, as much as anyone, wish to watch college football this fall — but not at the expense of safety.
When hard decisions are made, there are consequences. The fallout for our student athletes and coaches this fall is simple: they won’t be able to compete and test themselves against other schools. While missing out on competition is significant, many of the good things one gains from athletic participation will still be present while we wait for competition to resume in the spring.
The value of athletics extends beyond the games. Athletics, like all cocurricular activities, is as an extension of the classroom where different lessons are taught. Those lessons will continue, as Ole athletic teams will continue to gather in community and practice to prepare themselves for the competitions in the spring. The COVID-19 pandemic may have taken away the games, for now, but it also presents an opportunity to continue to learn and grow.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have taken away the games, for now, but it also presents an opportunity to continue to learn and grow.
The adversity that everyone has experienced as a result of COVID has been grand. As athletes, you are prepared every day to lead through adversity, communicate through adversity, and prosper in the face of adversity. The time is now for our student-athletes to apply those lessons. When the time is right and competition can resume safely, we will be ready. In the meantime, the true benefit of athletics will continue: learning life’s lessons.
I hope that you and your loved ones remain safe and once times become “typical” again and the games resume, that you’ll consider joining us in cheering on the Oles.