It is safe to say that no one living has ever experienced a year like 2020. The global pandemic, and the economic slowdown it has caused, have stressed every part of life as we have known it in the past.
For people who make their living in and around college campuses, no matter the area, this has been especially true.
In athletics – whether it be at the high school, college or professional level – with seasons canceled and postponed, or games being played with no one in the stands, every aspect of life has been impacted.
That is certainly true here at Stetson University, where spring seasons were canceled on March 12 and fall sports were postponed until the spring of 2021 earlier this month. No football or soccer, no volleyball or cross country, no golf or tennis. No fall competitions for spring sports.
While we are awaiting the campus census to know how the population of Student-Athletes has swelled this fall, we know more than 400 Stetson University Student-Athletes have no games to prepare for and only individual practices and conditioning activities to attend. It is the same for coaches and staff, who are all too accustomed to working 60, 70, 80 or more hours in a week during their seasons. They spend time watching film, recruiting future Hatters, planning and running practices, managing operational needs for their programs, coaching their teams in competition and, most importantly, teaching our young people how to be successful in life.
There are currently some limited signs of activity around the Hatters Athletics program. Student-Athletes have returned to working in the strength and conditioning program, although in limited numbers and with strictly monitored distancing and face mask mandates. But the level of activity for the individual Student-Athlete is far less than normal. The number of small group activity has a cumulative effect on coaches, who actually are spending more hours every day on face-to-face and virtual instruction.
For those of us in Athletics, we know we are part of a bigger team, one team, the Stetson University team. We are all a part of this community, no matter what kind of work we normally do. During this time, more than ever, we want to be good teammates and good stewards of the University’s resources by helping out in other areas of campus where assistance is needed. We have an acronym that we use for this effort, H.A.T.S., which stands for Help A Teammate Succeed.
Members of the Stetson Athletics staff are currently doing just that by volunteering more than 200 work hours per week to help in other areas of campus where jobs have been left unfilled, or demands have increased because of the pandemic.
Athletics staff are working to help in student recruitment and enrollment, in financial aid, in academic support and information technology. Athletics staff are also helping to keep our campus facilities clean and safe, helping to maintain the beautiful grounds on campus and, perhaps most significantly, helping to provide contact tracing to notify members of our community when they might have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
Also, like many areas of the campus community, athletics has lost some members of its immediate family due to budget cuts and attrition. Members of the staff whose positions were funded from outside sources have been laid off, as have numerous part-time employees. Temporary event staff jobs such as in ticket operations, security, ushers, concessions and other game-day personnel, some of which are normally filled by students, are unfilled at this time.
There are also a number of full-time staff openings in athletics that have gone unfilled for months and will continue to be left open into the future, including open coaching positions.
Everyone in the Stetson University community is feeling the impact of this pandemic, and athletics is certainly no exception. But the people who commit themselves to lives of service in athletics are, for the most part, the kind of people who like to face challenges head-on, with a level of determination and drive to succeed.
Our Student-Athletes are a perfect example. Like all Stetson students, the Student-Athletes have returned to their academic work. This past academic year, 2019-20, even with the move to all online learning at the end of the spring semester, Stetson Student-Athletes performed extremely well in the classroom, improving their cumulative performance over the previous academic year by a significant margin.
During the fall semester Hatters Student-Athletes posted a cumulative 3.112 GPA as compared to a 3.063 GPA for non-athletes. During the spring semester, the gap widened, with Student-Athletes posting a 3.413 GPA as compared to a 3.116 for non-athletes.
Our Student-Athletes truly are among the best and brightest Stetson University has to offer.
Like our students, Stetson Athletics’ coaches and staff are determined and driven to make sure Stetson University comes out of this pandemic in position to grow and succeed into the future. We can’t wait to return to the courts and fields of competition, and to have the entire Stetson community out in support of our coaches and Student-Athletes, but until that day arrives, we stand in support of Stetson University and we are ready, willing and able to do whatever it takes to help Stetson University shine for many years to come.
Director of Athletics