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As the start date for fall sports neared, the National Junior College Athletic Association knew it had to make a decision soon on what to do with fall sports. The organization announced that a majority of fall sports will now be played in the spring.
"The NJCAA is putting the safety of the students, staff and coaches first," said University of South Carolina Sumter athletic director Adrienne Cataldo. "I think this is a good decision because I don't want any athletes to have to miss a season, so giving them a better opportunity to play is a good choice."
USC Sumter will now play men's and women's soccer in the spring alongside baseball, softball, men's and women's tennis and men's and women's golf. Cataldo said that postponing sports will make the spring more difficult, but it's a sacrifice worth making if it gives USC Sumter athletes a better chance of playing sports during the 2020-21 school year.
"My biggest fear for the fall was that someone was going to get sick, and my second biggest fear was that the student-athletes wouldn't get a safe season," said Cataldo. "I know how it felt for these student-athletes in the spring, working personally with them. Just the sense of being defeated and losing the season was gut-wrenching and I didn't want that for any of our fall sports student-athletes.
"Is it going to be hectic in the spring having to do all of the sports at one time? Absolutely. But the students are going to be safer, the staff is going to be safer."
The NJCAA hasn't postponed every fall sport, as some non-contact sports such as cross country will be available. Schools with those sports will be given a choice to play them in the fall or spring, but USC Sumter does not offer any of the sports that have that option.
The decision to postpone the season doesn't mean the USC Sumter campus will be completely barren of sports this fall. The spring sports, along with men's and women's soccer, will still be able to have offseason workouts, but the window for practices will be limited.
"The spring sports are essentially not touched," said Cataldo on the ability to practice in the fall. "We have a shorter practice period that we're going to be allowed in the fall and a smaller number of scrimmages, but all in all, we're going to be able to keep up with practices and scrimmages, just on a smaller scale."
The spring will be different but shifting fall sports will not have a major effect on the remaining spring sports. Soccer does not have any crossover with spring sports as far as fields are concerned, so that will not affect practices for any of the teams.
The spring sports may see some changes in schedules, particularly when it comes to championship dates, but the biggest adjustment this spring will be travel. On top of any restrictions that may still be in place this spring due to the pandemic, it's difficult to organize travel for all eight of USC Sumter's teams in one season.
"Travel is going to be the biggest concern with vehicles and getting all of our teams where they need to be," said Cataldo. "We're going from six teams in the spring to adding two more, so that's a total of eight teams that need vehicles and transportation."
The NJCAA decided to postpone fall contact sports now in order to get ahead of the last-second scrambling that would've come from announcing this decision a month from now. Cataldo is glad the NJCAA elected to announce this decision now and give her and her fellow ADs time to adjust.
"The fact that the NJCAA made this decision early - and I know July doesn't sound early -- but this decision was made early from when I thought a decision would come out - and I am very thankful for it," said Cataldo. "It gives us an opportunity to talk to our advisers, talk to our faculty members, to get our coaches on the same page, to get schedules laid out. There are a ton of factors that go into each season and school starting in the fall and the fact that they made this decision has helped tremendously."
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