When Rachel Ferri and the ‘Berg women’s basketball team takes the court on Jan. 22, it’ll be her first game as a head coach and the first home athletic contest in nearly a year. And it can’t get here soon enough.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of all athletic competition last March, just as spring seasons were getting underway. The fall provided the opportunity for a phased, controlled return to athletic activities with strength and conditioning, smaller group practices and normal practices by the end of the semester.
“We had some pauses and restarts, but I think our student-athletes appreciated the efforts that allowed them to return to somewhat of a normal life on campus,” said ‘Berg AD Matt Palm. Lots of intense conversations, Zoom calls and difficult, complex decisions created the best possible scenario for each team, the Athletic Department, the Heidelberg community and the Tiffin community, Matt explained.
But now, student-athletes in fall, winter and spring sports, coaches and athletic trainers are gearing up for abbreviated seasons. Winter teams, including men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling and indoor track are back on campus, and If all goes according to plan, seasons will start the weekend of Jan. 22-24. All students return this weekend and spring semester classes begin Jan. 19.
In March, football, volleyball, soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse, outdoor track and golf will be in action.
All will play partial seasons, and competition will be restricted to in-conference only, according to a joint decision by the Ohio Athletic Conference. Since the spring teams lost the bulk of their seasons in 2020, efforts are being made to “maintain as substantial a playing season as possible,” Matt said. Spring schedules are currently being finalized.
Additionally, Heidelberg has put into place a rigorous COVID-19 testing plan in accordance with NCAA guidelines and based on the risk level for each sport. “We feel like we have a strong plan going forward to keep our teams, coaches and athletic trainers safe and healthy,” he added. Testing has already begun, as all Heidelberg students were required to test negative before returning to campus for the spring semester. “There will be plenty of testing throughout the semester, too.”
‘Berg student-athletes are fully on board regarding additional testing and understand it’s necessary if they want to get back to doing what they enjoy.
With the resumption of competition on the horizon, the student-athletes are looking forward to competing. “Over the last nine months, they have understood what they have missed out on and what it takes to get back to that,” Matt said. “I have to give a lot of credit to our student-athletes for dealing with everything they’ve had to deal with since March, for choosing to return to Heidelberg, for choosing to return for the next semester. They’ve been really resilient.”
The OAC announced in December that all games will be closed to spectators until at least March. That decision may be re-evaluated into spring when most competitions are held outdoors.
Family, friends, alumni and the campus community can livestream all home games and most away games, free of charge, on the Berg Athletics website.