The SUNY Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) announced the cancelation of winter sports on Oct. 19, reversing their initial decision made less than a month ago.
All winter sports — including ice hockey, basketball, swimming and indoor track and field — had their seasons axed due to health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This was not an easy decision and I empathize with all of our student-athletes across the SUNYAC,” said SUNYAC Presidents Chairman Erik Bitterbaum in a press release. “However, despite our best efforts to plan for a winter season, our priority must be the health and safety of everyone involved with intercollegiate athletics, and our campuses as a whole.”
Nearly three weeks earlier on Oct. 6, SUNYAC announced the start of winter sports, with seasons slated to begin on Feb. 1 with a condensed season format for ice hockey and basketball. With small group practices for multiple sports, including basketball, commencing near the beginning of October, teams were amped up for a return to play.
Both SUNY New Paltz basketball teams were doing workouts in masks and practicing drills that allowed for social distancing in preparation for their first game.
Yet that day won’t come this season. This means for New Paltz newcomers, such as third-year transfer student and basketball point guard Anthony Simon, his inaugural season in the 845 will take place his senior year.
“We were disappointed because we got our schedule just a week prior to the announcement; we were really excited,” Simon said.
The former Dominican College shooting guard felt unsatisfied with his role on his former team, where he was often a member of their practice squad. When New Paltz men’s basketball Assistant Coach Tom Bell spoke to Simon about the opportunities the Hawks could provide him, he made the move. Despite his first New Paltz season being delayed by over a year, his eagerness remains unwavering.
“I really want to show that we have been waiting for this,” Simon said. “This will be our opportunity. We will finally be there to show that we arrived with all the hard work we put into the past.”
The New Paltz swimming teams were hit hard by the cancelations, as well. With both teams getting back into some optional practices during the fall semester, hopes were high for the Hawks to dive into the season, albeit under a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the structure.
“Obviously I was upset, because I did want a season with the team and to be able to practice and race,” said second-year swimmer Zachary Brown. “But it is what it is. I know that I have to just make the most of it.”
The team still has access to the pool in the Elting Gym during the prolonged offseason to keep up their fitness level. As Brown puts it, swimming is “all about consistency.” Intensity isn’t the primary focus of their current training routine, overseen by Interim Head Coach Matthew Distler.
Fortunately for any current fourth-year students on these teams, they are eligible to join their rosters for 2021-22, even if they graduate in the current academic year.
With all hopes of any Hawks action gone until the middle of the spring semester at the earliest, keeping their eyes on the prize and remaining optimistic through a year defined by uncertainty and gloom could produce abundant returns in performance and drive when action finally resumes for the athletes.
“It is not an ideal situation, but we have to enjoy the ride and make the most of what we have in front of us,” Brown said.