For the first time in the history of sports at Clark State College, five athletic teams will compete during the same season: men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, men’s baseball and women’s softball competitions will all be held this spring semester.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges across the country – including those in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) – were forced to adjust their schedules and seasons to accommodate for the health and safety of student athletes and coaches.
Director of athletics and student life at Clark State, Justin McCulla, said Clark State student-athletes and coaches are in a unique situation for the season.
“Typically, we have one or two teams play at the same time,” he said. “Now with us having all five sports going on at one time, we have to coordinate gym space (practices and games), travel, manpower and athletic training services.”
McCulla said the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference (OCCAC), did wonders coordinating a basketball and volleyball schedule that would be opposite of each other, and they did the same with baseball and softball. “This helped with several of the challenges we would have to face with staffing and transportation,” he said. “In our coaches meeting, I made it clear that this season each one of us would and will have to be flexible and understanding.”
Clark State student-athletes also get a free year of athletic eligibility, so if they so choose to return to finish their degree, they maintain a third year of athletic eligibility to compete as a Clark State Eagle.
“This is a great opportunity for Clark State Athletics to showcase our student-athletes and teams to our community on a consistent basis,” said McCulla.
McCulla said the coordination of safety protocols took a great deal of time during the summer.
“When we saw several institutions start suspending their athletic departments for the 2020-2021 season, we went right to work on plans, procedures and protocols. We continue to adapt and change what we are doing to ensure our student-athletes are safe and we are able to move forward throughout the whole season.”
McCulla said Clark State student-athletes and coaches are required to wear face coverings when they are not playing and keep social distance.
“Our student-athletes are eager to be playing meaningful games,” said McCulla. “We have put in place protocols that are guided by the NJCAA, NCAA and the CDC. We did an excellent job this past fall semester with our current protocols during our practices and scrimmages.”
Anthony Clements serves as head coach of the men’s basketball team and Jay Etter serves as head coach of the women’s basketball team. McCulla said classes, practices and games are different, but student-athletes and coaches are adjusting to the unknowns.
“We look forward to the 2021 season,” said McCulla. “We have a 17-game schedule for both basketball teams, and we know that there will be some bumps in the road. Our coaching staffs are ready for what lies ahead of us.”
The typical volleyball season runs August through October, but Clark State adjusted to a two and half month schedule this spring semester. Under the guidance of coach Angie Arthur, the Eagles volleyball team will kick off their season on February 6 at Hocking College.
“Our student-athletes are excited to play [volleyball],” said McCulla. “We have a lot of local student-athletes on our team this year. Coach Angie Arthur recruited hard around the area. I am excited to see how we will compete.”
While spectators are not permitted to be at basketball or volleyball games, Clark State is live streaming athletics competitions via YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtMn1_NOCVLOAZMssEGzFBA
The Clark State Eagles men’s baseball season will officially kick-off Saturday, February 20 at UC Clermont with the leadership of head coach Chase Brown. The Eagles home opener is scheduled for March 2 against Miami University Hamilton.
“We are playing our home games at Fairfield Park in Fairborn,” said McCulla. “Fans will be allowed to attend, and we encourage them to socially distance themselves from other fans.
The 2021 baseball season has not been postponed due to the pandemic, but the season was canceled after just nine games due to COVID last year.
“Our student-athletes are ready for the season. They got a little taste of competition in the fall with scrimmages,” said McCulla. “They are following our COVID protocols by answering COVID health questions and having their temperatures checked every workout, practice and game.”
Taking the field again for the first time since 2016, the Clark State women’s softball team will open their season on March 12 at UC Clermont under the direction of coach Chris Walmsley. Home games will be held at Evans Acres Park in Xenia with the home opener on March 20 against Miami University Middletown.
“COVID really hit our softball program hard last spring,” said McCulla. “We had a team ready to play, and our first game was set after COVID shut down the U.S. in mid-March.”
Clark State has four returning student-athletes from last year’s softball team.
“They are ready to go, but are nervous how this season will play out,” said McCulla. “This will be our first season on the diamond since 2016. Coach Wamsley has been doing some heavy recruiting the past two years to have a competitive team.”
A complete list of Clark State Eagle athletics schedules and rosters is available online at: clarkstateeagles.com.
“I am happy to see our student-athletes get a chance to play again,” said McCulla. “Sports brings out the best in people. This could be another way for our student-athletes to get back to what it used to be like before March 2020. It is rewarding to see all the hard work our athletic department, coaches and students have put in and that we can finally see a live game!”