On Monday, the National Junior College Athletic Association announced a plan of action to push all fall close-contact sports to the spring semester for the 2020-21 athletic calendar.
The sudden move will include major changes to this year’s upcoming football, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball schedules. Kankakee Community College plays volleyball and men’s/women’s soccer, with women’s soccer being a recent addition to the school’s catalog of offerings.
“It’s a decision that was made, so we have to go with it,” Kankakee athletic director Todd Post said. “It just presents some challenges with the scheduling for games and practices, transportation and things like that, so it’s going to be a little challenging, but we will work through it.”
Despite moving some of the major fall sports to the spring, the NCJAA still is permitting limited practice sessions in the fall. Football, soccer and volleyball teams can practice 60 times in the first semester between mid-August and mid-November. Football can have three scrimmages against outside opponents; the men’s and women’s soccer teams are permitted four scrimmages during the year with a maximum of two scrimmages being allowed in the spring. Their scrimmages are limited to two opponents each.
Similar to soccer, volleyball also is limited to the same number of spring scrimmages and opponents. However, they on the other hand will be allowed a total of five scrimmages between both semesters.
“I’m the one who’s really upset about it because I’m the one who really wanted to have a season in the fall,” volleyball coach Terry Allison said. “It took me a good amount of time to put together my schedule, and now I’ve got to re-do it all while competing with the men’s and women’s basketball team [for] when we’re going to have home games.”
Under the NCJAA’s new plan of action volleyball will be set to be the first fall sport to begin practicing in the spring by allowing practices to begin Jan. 11. Competition will begin Jan. 29 with a maximum of 21 competition dates. Furthermore, all regular season, region and district championships must be completed by April 3 in order for the NCJAA to hold the volleyball championships from April 15-17.
“It’s going to be a coordination nightmare,” Allison said. “We’re limited [with] transportation vehicles that we have, and we only have one gym. So, the budget is going to hurt; limitation in transportation and just being able to get everything all coordinated is going to be tough.”
Although the extra time before the season could benefit the volleyball squad, Allison will have to get creative in his workout plans to keep his players interested.
“It’s really about the gym time; the girls are getting three to four days a week of conditioning. … Doing the same thing over and over again gets very tiring in itself, but giving them different things to do and working on different body parts really helps,” Allison said. “I think were are going to continue to do that, but it’s going to be challenging on me to get them to do different things.”
As for soccer, KCC’s other major fall sport, the season won’t start until March 15, when practice can begin. From there, the team can begin its season starting April 2, playing a maximum of 14 games. All the regular season, region and district competition must then be completed by May 24.
“At this point, let’s just be thankful that we are planning on having a season,” men’s and women’s head soccer coach Mike Barclay said. “When all this stuff started earlier in the year, I really didn’t think we were even going to have athletics this year … so you know what, I’ll take a condensed schedule over no schedule at all.
“I think America has realized how much we need sports in our lives.”
Similar to every other sport moving to the fall, both of KCC’s soccer teams’ biggest challenges will be dealing with the rescheduling of games and practices at open facilities. Being an Illinois institution, it will be difficult to schedule practices and games because of the unpredictable Windy City weather during the winter months.
“Just from [the] logistical side of having all of our sports team running in the early spring, transportation wise and coordinating classes and things like that will be tough,” Barclay said. “What’s going to really tough for us in soccer is going to be training.
“Living in Illinois, you quickly realize how unpredictable the weather is, and we are going to start finding places to practice.”
On the other hand, Barclay realizes there still are benefits to playing in the fall. He sees this as a better opportunity to get his teams prepared for the shortened seasons.
“I think in the case for moving soccer to the spring it will actually help us and gives us more time to prepare,” Barclay said.
As far as recruiting goes for the men’s and women’s soccer teams, each are on a path of their own. Surprisingly, the men’s soccer squad has been almost un-altered.
“Recruiting for the men’s side has not really been affected because we were able to get out last fall and see guys play,” Barclay said. “And we were able to talk with them early enough so the men’s roster is fine.”
KCC’s women’s team isn’t as fortunate as the boys. Being this is the first season KCC will field a women’s soccer team, it’s no surprise Barclay has had a difficult time finding new recruits.
“Recruiting this year has been extremely tough,” Barclay said. “We basically stop coaching club soccer over the winter and spring seasons so we can go out and recruit and catch games. … Obviously, there’s nothing going on, and it’s made recruiting a challenge this year.”
The other minor tweak in the NCJAA’s plan is moving all winter sports competition to January with a majority of the championships being moved from March to April. Additionally, all spring sports competition will remain intact with minor tweaks to dates.