NORFOLK, Neb. – Although the upcoming fall athletics season has been delayed at many of the nation’s community and junior colleges, limited practices will still be allowed beginning in August under strict guidelines due to the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidance comes after the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) adjusted its plan of action for the upcoming 2020-21 academic year. Following a vote by the NJCAA Board of Regents on Monday, a majority of the fall competition will be moved to the spring semester.
The most recent NJCAA plan of action shifts all close-contact fall championship sports to the spring semester. At Northeast, this includes men's and women's soccer and volleyball. Along with the adjustments to the competition season and championship dates, the NJCAA has provided information as it relates to scrimmage and practice dates and allowances in the fall.
Kurt Kohler, dean of student life and athletics at Northeast Community College, said the college’s plan for fall allows for engagement of student-athletes, while also keeping limited contact within and among each team.
“All face-to-face workouts are voluntary for the student-athletes. Students who are not comfortable returning to practice or play due to health issues, housing concerns, or for academic reasons will not be required to participate,” Kohler said. “Because these are voluntary workouts during the fall season, student-athletes may not be dismissed from any team except for documented disciplinary reasons or eligibility concerns.”
Kohler said student-athletes will continue to receive any scholarship that has been awarded to them as long as they stay enrolled full-time at Northeast or unless an NJCAA release is requested. The student-athletes will remain in good standing with their team regardless of the decision about participating this fall.
In addition, each team at Northeast will be permitted to participate in individual and small group (pods) skill development, strength training and conditioning workouts for a maximum of 60 consecutive calendar days. Each pod will be kept to a minimum number of participants and should not exceed 25% of the total number of a team’s roster whenever possible. Also, full-team practices, scrimmages, meetings and other team activities will not be permitted.
All winter sports competition will begin in January with a majority of championship seasons moved from March to April. This includes men's and women's basketball.
"Our greatest focus is and always has been providing the best opportunities for our student-athletes," said Christopher Parker, NJCAA president & CEO. "Through a unified effort from our Presidential Advisory Council, the Board of Regents, and leadership staff, our most recent plan of action provides a path that keeps our student-athletes competing at the highest level with proper safety measures in place. As we move forward as an association, we will continue to provide opportunities for our student-athletes, coaches, and all those involved with the NJCAA to be safe and successful.”
Kohler said the Northeast plan of action for fall allows for student-athlete engagement while ensuring safety precautions among players and coaches.
“Although this fall will not look like a typical fall for Hawks Athletics, we are excited that our student-athletes will have the opportunity to return to Norfolk and work on skill development, strength training and conditioning throughout the fall semester, while also limiting extended close contact among teams,” Kohler said. “The health and safety of our student-athletes, the Northeast community and our region is paramount, and I believe we will be able to accomplish this with the limited contact plan that has been developed for Northeast Athletics. We look forward to the return of team competition during the spring semester.”
PHOTO ID: Men’s soccer match between Northeast Community College and Barton Community College at Veterans Memorial Field in Norfolk.