The NJCAA decision to overhaul fall and winter sports athletic calendars to a regular-season schedule in spring presented a long checklist for coaches at State Fair Community College.
For the fall men’s and women’s soccer programs, head coach Jaime Beltran said there are a variety of issues to address that range from a new offseason schedule to recruitment efforts.
And while there are projected long-term impacts after the NJCAA passed in an emergency Board of Regents meeting Monday, Beltran said he is still compiling the list of short-term conflicts.
“It’s just another nightmare,” Beltran said.
Beltran said he understands, values and encourages the precautions necessary to minimize the spread of COVID-19. His ire stems from another delay to the pitch after spring contests were erased when the NJCAA canceled remaining spring activities in March.
“I know why it’s happening,” Beltran said. “But deep down I’m just tired of it. … I would rather do this than not get to play.”
Given the spring cancellations, coaches have already suggested to the NJCAA expanding the number of scrimmage dates. Teams are currently allowed four total scrimmage dates before the regular season with a maximum of two in the spring.
Practices may begin March 15, 2021 and the first game is permitted to start April 2. SFCC usually schedules one scrimmage before the regular season.
“We already lost our four games from last spring, and we are losing games this semester, so we would like to see more than four scrimmages,” Beltran said.
Beltran added that filling out a 14-game regular-season schedule while playing each Region 16 opponent twice leaves little room for out-of-region competition, but conceded limiting travel in 2021 is a point of emphasis.
“Some schools would be unhappy with that because they want to play multiple opponents,” Beltran said. “Most years I agree with that argument, and this year I can almost see that argument. … I can see both arguments being made, but I hope the region can help us out.”
Addressing travel plans for international student-athletes is of immediate concern. Some student-athletes are currently restricted to travel internationally or from visiting local government departments to acquire a U.S. visa.
Student-athletes who arrive in spring stand to play both regular-season campaigns of their State Fair career in back-to-back semesters. This presents an eligibility dilemma, Beltran said, as student-athletes must accumulate 24 earned/passing semester hours with a GPA of 2.0 prior to participating in a second season of a sport.
“Are we going to allow them to participate in this spring season, which is a regular season, or is that going to possibly cause some problems next fall when we go back to our normal schedule?” Beltran said. “Some kids might have to do online school that they weren't planning to do. Now we have to go back to anybody who was going to come here in January to think about going online in the fall, going to summer school or waiting until next fall.”
Next fall will also demand more recruits. Beltran said recruitment is a long-term issue yet to be addressed amid a litany of short-term conflicts.
“That is going to be very important but it is low on the immediate priority list,” Beltran said. “I’m still trying to figure out how we’re going to do this year.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @abagueros2.