From Stadiums to Social Media: Supporting Fall Sports in an Unprecedented Season

Kyle Brown | The PhoenixThe Loyola men's and women's basketball teams are the only teams effected by the NCAA's ruling on extra eligibility for winter sports due to COVID-19.

The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) announced Aug. 14 the decision to postpone all 2020 fall sports due to COVID-19 concerns. This leaves men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross-country, and women’s volleyball teams without a season for the time-being and — with Loyola’s on-campus housing closure — no in-person fans for the Ramblers.

With an unprecedented and difficult semester ahead, coaches and players said the best way to make a difference to athletes right now is to check-in and show support on social media.

Women’s soccer senior midfielder Lindsey Hardiman said she adapted well to working and preparing alone while everyone was in quarantine, but she still is a bit anxious about the year ahead since it’s her last year on the Ramblers. She said fans can show support for her team by staying involved online with them.

“I think the big thing is just staying up to date with the news that’s coming out,” she said. 

Steve Woltmann | Loyola Athletics Loyola women’s soccer coach Barry Bimbi most likely won’t get a chance to coach a Loyola women’s soccer game from the sidelines until spring at the earliest.

Women’s soccer head coach Barry Bimbi said he thinks the decision to postpone the season has both a good and bad side — it’s difficult for those who had worked hard in preparation over the summer, but it will also be a less hectic college transition for the first-years. 

Bimbi said online engagement will be a major player in helping connect the players and fans considering there will be no games or on-campus residents at Loyola this fall. 

“Comment on it, follow us, retweet stuff, do all those types of things,” he said. “We have to figure out what the fall is going to look like social media … player spotlights and profiles … so [fans] can get to know the team.”

The MVC announced in the press release that although conference competition is canceled for the time-being, teams are allowed to practice, have team meetings and participate in non-conference competition this fall as long as they follow MVC and NCAA regulations. The press release also said fall sports may be pushed to spring 2021.

Loyola Athletic Director Steve Watson said in a press release Aug. 14 that a decision on playing fall sports in spring 2021 will be made at a later date.

Although she’s disappointed to have the season postponed, women’s volleyball head coach Amanda Berkley said she feels it wouldn’t have been a meaningful season with the possibilities of quarantines and players not having an enjoyable season. 

Steve Woltmann | Loyola Athletics Women’s volleyball head coach Amanda Berkley steps onto the court to coach the Ramblers.

Berkley said she thinks having players back at practice is going to be good for them as well as holding team meetings to support them during this time. As far as fan support, she said students can show support online or even in person.

“Supporting them positively on social media will always be a good thing,” she said. “Maybe if you see an athlete say ‘Hey, thinking about you!’ or ‘Excited to watch you play when you’re able to play’ … stuff like that.”

Head cross-country coach Bob Thurnhoffer said it was unfortunate the season was postponed, however, it was important to protect the health and safety of athletes. He also said he hopes people can come together and stay safe to preserve a possible spring season. 

“I feel for all-those student-athletes that want to compete,” Thurnhoffer said in the Aug. 14 press release. “With a collective nationwide effort, it’s within our capability to make that happen heading into next semester. Let’s all do our part so we can take part.”

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