Hopkins Student-Athletes Adjust to the New Fall Season
As Hopkins enters the 2020-2021 school year, with COVID-19 as the main concern, the Athletics program has had to adapt.
A difficult “new normal” will be the continuation of practices and team bonding exercises without the chance to compete against other schools or for a championship. Not only do athletics provide a break from school and stress, the bonding and camaraderie are particularly beneficial for a student's physical and mental well-being. Varsity Basketball player Mike Iaccarino ’21 explains, “If I’ve had a bad day at school, going to practice allows me to de-stress and focus on something other than taking notes or memorizing flashcards.”
With twenty different sport offerings, twenty-nine Varsity teams, sixty-three high school teams, and an eighty-four percent participation rate, the majority of Hopkins students will miss out on a crucial part of the high-school experience. Hopkins competes in two athletic conferences: The Fairchester Athletic Association (FAA) and the Metropolitan Independent Football League (MIFL). Both leagues have canceled conference competition for the Fall 2020 season due to risk of infection, concerns about travel, and the logistical difficulty of coordinating with schools who have differing plans and academic models. According to the FAA announcement regarding cancellation, “The FAA and its member schools recognize the importance of athletics within each of our communities, and are collectively committed to providing a positive and robust athletic experience while prioritizing the health and safety of our student-athletes and entire school population.” Although the FAA has canceled conference competition, it did not prohibit individual schools from holding their own tournaments and games with other schools from New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. MIFL, however, discourages competition: “Based on state guidance for athletics, the risk profile for football, and decisions by the Ivy Preparatory School League and Fairchester Athletic Association regarding interscholastic competition, the New York and Connecticut MIFL schools reached the decision that they will not schedule any interscholastic football games for the fall.” MIFL understands that through the cancellation of their league, it will be harder for their players to get recruited and announced: “Despite the differences in these approaches, the MIFL athletic directors will develop ideas to support and highlight those student athletes who are considering playing football in college.”
At Hopkins, the fall coaches are trying to determine what is feasible in their respective sports. The fall will begin with two orientation days, one for the seniors of each fall sport to meet up with their teams and the second for the entire team to meet and start conditioning together. Hopkins Athletic Director Rocco DeMaio explained the reasoning behind this preseason decision: “We decided against preseason because we wanted to be consistent with the safe school reopening plan and pivot to an orientation model. We decided on two days in order to space the teams on fields and reduce the numbers so that we can meet safely.” Once the year starts, most teams will practice and find ways to promote team bonding, however coaches and student-athletes know this season will be unlike any other because of the inability to play against other schools. In order to make the best out of the situation and provide a sense of familiarity, Head Football Coach Tim Phipps explained to his players: “When football first began at Hopkins, they only played on campus and against each other so we see this season as a return to our roots and something that will strengthen the program for years to come.” One of Phipps’ players Will Blumenthal ’22, remarked, “I would say that although we are not able to compete for a championship title this year, the entire team and program will come out of this even stronger, and I know we’ll work together as a team to have a productive and memorable season this year.”
This upcoming sports season will be noticeably different from years past, but student-athletes are making the best out of it. Girls Varsity Soccer player Grace Rhatigan ’22 said, “Even though this season is going to look really different, I am super excited to reunite with the team! We’ve always been so close, and I don’t think anything could break that bond.” David Verdu ’21, captain of the Varsity Football team, remarked, “Football at Hopkins means the world to me. Ever since the first day of preseason on August 21, 2017, football has been an integral part of my life. Seeing it go really makes me sad...I love everyone on the football team, and I know that there is a championship win in the future.” Varsity Soccer player Jenny Alaska ’22 commented, “I’m heartbroken for the seniors missing their last season, and I’m sad to miss my last chance to play with them this fall! But, I’m so happy that Hopkins is letting us practice so we don’t lose our season!”