Winter sports athletes upset but unsurprised by season’s cancellation

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Media: Anissa Gardizy

The women’s basketball team is one of two teams impacted by Monday’s decision.

By Christopher Williams, Sports Editor

Emerson’s basketball teams will not be competing in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference this winter season, to the dismay of athletes who say the cancelation is disappointing but not unexpected.

“We could kind of see it coming,” sophomore men’s basketball guard James Beckwith said in an interview. “We had been mentally preparing just because our coaches were growing less and less optimistic, and they were telling us in the weeks leading up to it there’s a very small chance we have the season.”

The NEWMAC Presidents Council unanimously cancelled the 2020-21 winter sports season on Monday, Nov. 3 due to changes in academic calendars and campus protocols enforced to limit COVID-19 exposure. The decision impacts eleven local institutions’ basketball and swimming and diving teams. Both Emerson teams impacted are currently in their third week of practice. 

Monday’s decision closely mirrors the July decision that canceled fall sports due to the enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. That move impacted men’s and women’s cross-country, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball.

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Women’s basketball head coach Bill Gould said his team will still hold some practices despite the season’s official cancellation.

“We are practicing right now, as there are severe limitations, restrictions, and protocols we have to follow,” Gould said. “It’s pretty much going to be just working on our skills and skill development.”

Senior women’s basketball guard Rachel Davey said she will use the practice time to savor her final moments with the team.

“I’m just trying to go to have fun, hang out with the team, and help the younger girls prepare for next year,” Davey said.

The men’s basketball team, on the other hand, is not practicing this week and might not return to the court this semester, Beckwith said. 

“We may practice again the last two weeks of the semester, but we’re not even really sure what we’re going to do,” Beckwith said. “People are split on what they really want to do going forward because we’re obviously not going to play a game for a year.”

Beckwith added that motivation has dwindled since the cancellation, but the team’s goal is to keep improving in this extra time.

“Right now, it’s just about keeping our heads down and just trying to get a little bit better and doing what we can,” Beckwith said. “It’s obviously a little bit harder to stay motivated by taking the long view of ‘eventually we’re going to have a season to prepare for,’ but right now it’s just getting a little bit better every day.”

The NEWMAC President’s Council said teams have the ability to arrange out-of-conference competition at their discretion, in accordance with institutional, state, and local health and safety guidelines. Despite remaining hopeful, Gould said it’s unlikely Emerson decides to allow outside competition.

“I don’t think the school has still made an official determination on that,” Gould said. “Again, that’s one of those things you can hold out hope for, but I think it’s unlikely.”

Due to the cancellation, seniors on the men’s and women’s basketball teams are able to receive an additional year of NCAA eligibility. Gould, however, does not envision many players exercising that option.

“At Division III, this is not a scholarship division, so kids pay their own way to go to school,” Gould said. “It’s not cheap. Kids had in their mind, especially the seniors, that they were going to graduate, so to totally flip that on its head and have them come back for another year and pay an extra year of tuition is unlikely.”

Although given the chance, Davey said she does not plan to exercise the option to extend her eligibility, citing tuition expenses and the desire to graduate this year. She said her favorite moments with the team were on bus rides to and from games, as well as all the other times the team hung out together. She plans to stay involved in basketball following graduation. 

“I’ll probably play in a recreational league at some point in my life,” Davey said. “This is the end of my competitive career for sure.”

For those senior student athletes who choose not to extend their eligibility, Monday’s decision ended their careers as Lions. Gould expressed his sympathy for his seniors.

“It’s hard because they’re not going onto the WNBA, so this is the end of their career as a team athlete,” Gould said. “They’ve been a part of a team since they were like six years old, so to have it end so abruptly is very tough.”

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