Finding a way to continue athletics on a university campus in 2020 is a major task. With NCAA guidelines, safety protocols, and many other challenges, the task can seem daunting. Yet Calvin University found a way to navigate through the process this fall, doing its utmost to provide a safe and positive athletic experience.

Seven of Calvin’s sports teams competed in intercollegiate competition this fall:

  • Men’s and women’s cross country competed in four invitational meets.
  • Women’s triathlon competed in the final cross country invitational.
  • Men’s and women’s tennis competed in exhibition non-conference dual matches.
  • Men’s and women’s golf competed in a full season of fall tournaments that included smaller but competitive fields.

Meanwhile, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball began practices and competed in inter-team matches under the lights. A limited number of fans watched and cheered on the teams.

Spring sports teams such as track and field, softball, baseball, and men’s and women’s lacrosse practiced during the fall and sprinkled in inter-team competitions. Winter sports teams such as swimming and diving, basketball, and ice hockey also returned to practice with hopes of competing in the future.

Making bold decisions

The return to practice and play was not without due diligence, said Jim Timmer, Calvin director of athletics. “It was a spring and summer filled with online meetings with our coaches, our league [Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association], and the NCAA working on finding a path forward,” said Timmer.

On July 30, the MIAA announced the postponement of its conference fall sports season, electing to move the seasons into spring 2021.

Calvin, along with league members Adrian, Olivet, and Trine, decided to pursue fall sports competition at the non-conference level.

“We owe a lot to Calvin President Dr. [Michael] LeRoy,” said Timmer. “It was through his leadership that we made the final decision to pursue a fall season. We knew it would not be without challenges, but ultimately we felt it was the right decision.”

Making it safe

Health Services, Calvin Sports Medicine Office, and associate director of athletics Nancy Meyer worked to provide clear instruction to returning student-athletes. Instructions included how to integrate into smaller and later larger practice pods, and when to undergo COVID-19 testing.

“It’s been a challenging but worthwhile process,” said Meyer. “I feel like we owe it to our student-athletes to give them our best effort to deliver a meaningful athletics experience.

“Our health services and sports medicine offices have gone above and beyond in making this fall sports experience a success. Providing a safe environment and keeping our student athletes mindful of the health protocols has been like a second full-time job for them,” Meyer said.

Making a community

Meyer has witnessed a strong commitment to following safety protocols. Calvin student athletes “want to practice, they want to compete, and they want to be together as a team,” said Meyer. “That commitment has been a real positive in the middle of a pandemic.”

Timmer sees the positive of the return to athletics as a greater positive for Calvin. “I am a big believer in athletics on a college or university campus providing community,” said Timmer. “At Calvin it allows student athletes to pursue things with passion within a Christian environment. Athletics provide traditions and rallying cries for an institution. It helps cement campuses together even in times of great division.”