WATERTOWN — Even in a long winter without sports, there’s a silver lining on the horizon for Jefferson Community College.
The college announced Saturday that the Cannoneers will play spring sports this year, after the fall and winter seasons were canceled previously because of concerns about the coronavirus.
The announcement was made by the athletic department, both on the school’s website and its athletics Facebook page.
“In conjunction with many other NJCAA Region III schools, Jefferson has decided to move forward with participating in spring sports,” JCC athletic director Jeff Wiley said. “For the Cannoneers, this will include baseball softball and golf.”
The development also comes after JCC’s entire spring sports season was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
“Working with SUNY and New York State, Jefferson continues to develop and follow protocol to ensure the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and everyone involved,” Wiley continued on JCC’s sites. “Schedules for each sport will be released at a later date.”
The Cannoneers’ spring sports slate usually includes baseball, men’s golf, men’s lacrosse, as well as women’s golf, women’s lacrosse and softball.
“We’re looking to start March 28, we’re supposed to be at Mohawk Valley (Community College),” Wiley said. “What we’re going to do is we’re going to have one event on our campus, so if baseball is away, softball will be home. We’re just going to go play at opposite sites and hope for the best.”
In December, JCC announced it wouldn’t offer lacrosse in the spring, offering just baseball, golf and softball, and Wiley is optimistic about the prospects of a spring season.
“We hope so,” Wiley said. “You know every thing changes, so we’re prepping for the spring and we’re going to have about a 24-game schedule for baseball and softball, that’s what the plan is with possible additional games. But we have to remain flexible, say one of the campuses has an outbreak, we won’t be going, or we do, we won’t be going, kind of what they’ve been doing at the Division I level, so I think the schedules will change.”
Last winter’s sports season at JCC wasn’t affected by the coronavirus as both the men’s and women’s basketball competed in the Region III playoffs, both finishing up their seasons in late February.
With the outbreak, JCC went on to cancel its spring and fall sports, which included scrimmages against other colleges, also announcing in December that it wouldn’t be playing high-risk sports such as basketball.
“I think with the New York state high schools and everybody starting to reopen, I think that’s a positive sign for us,” Wiley said. “I think that we can do baseball and softball, I think they’ve proven that with the major leagues, they’ve played AAU softball and fast-pitch softball all summer long and had baseball tournaments all summer long.
“So I think with the three sports with medium and low risk, I think we can get those done.”
Lacrosse is considered a high-risk sport both at the scholastic and collegiate levels.
“That’s high risk and with the lack of facilities really limits us to where we can play,” Wiley said. “Especially with the high schools, they’re going to try and play football and lacrosse in the spring on their turf fields, it would be just too difficult to find a practice field and a game field for this spring.”
Wiley said JCC is fully prepared to follow COVID-19 protocols, which the school has already implemented for previous team practices.
“We were practicing all fall with masks on for everything and they were outside,” Wiley said. “We’re going to be inside for a couple months here, but everybody is going to be masked up, we’ve got the protocol. Separate entrance and exits coming in, hand sanitizers all over the place, coaches and players have masks, we have everything to sanitize the gym.”
Wiley continued: “We have a break between practices so we can take 15 minutes to 20 minutes and disinfect the areas the student athletes were in before the next team comes in. We have all the contact tracing in place, so when a team comes in, they all sign in, they answer the questions and then they go to practices and when they leave, they sign out. We’re going to work with Jefferson County as well.”
In addition, JCC announced that team practices can begin as early as this Monday.
“So hopefully we come back in the 2021-22 seasons with all our sports and be on our fields,” Wiley added.