As a Division III school, a higher focus is placed on academics than athletics for those students that choose to participate in Elizabethtown College’s various varsity programs. For this reason, both the traditional and nontraditional season – the portion of the season that does not include the NCAA championship – for each sport are highly regulated.
Principle 2.14 of the NCAA Division III Constitution states, “The time required of student-athletes for participation in intercollegiate athletics shall be regulated to minimize interference with their opportunities for acquiring a quality education in a manner consistent with that afforded the general student body.” In the 276-page constitution, 35 pages are devoted to outlining the exact starting dates of each season and the allowed number of practices and days of competition for each individual sport.
For the nontraditional season for baseball, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer and softball, the NCAA only permits 16 days of athletically-related activity, one of those being a day of competition. As any athlete knows, having only 16 days of practice between seasons is nowhere near sufficient enough to keep team members in shape and fresh with their technical skills. Therefore, for Etown’s twenty teams, workouts outside of the traditional and nontraditional seasons are extremely important.
Fall and spring season athletes are currently in the midst of their winter workouts. Coaches usually send the team a recommended workout plan, dictating different cardio workouts – such as jump rope sets, long-distance runs and sprints – as well as lifting exercises and drills. However, coaches cannot call these workouts mandatory, for any required weight training or conditioning activities fall under the NCAA’s description of an athletically-related activity.
According to the Division III Constitution, “an institutional staff member may design a voluntary individual-workout program for a student-athlete, but cannot conduct the individual’s workout outside the declared playing season.” The constitution also specifically forbids student-athletes from reporting back to their coaches any running times, weight sheets or other information related to such voluntary athletically-related activities.
Therefore, the coaches must rely on the responsibility and dedication of Etown’s student-athletes and their willingness to come to the first day of practice in good shape. For the Blue Jays baseball team, their winter workout helps the team maintain their conditioning from their fall nontraditional season to their regular season in the spring. According to sophomore Mark Minisce, the team starts practicing Feb. 1 with 5:30 a.m. practices in the gym. Head Coach Cliff Smith expects the team to lift three times a week in addition to the team’s five practices.
“The winter workouts help us brush up on skills like throwing and hitting that are hard to do in the middle of the winter,” Minisce said. “We will also come out of the winter workouts with greater cardiovascular strength.”
Sophomore men’s lacrosse player Adam Moore has a similar program to prepare him and his team for their regular season in the spring. The men’s lacrosse workout consists of lifting three times a week and running five days a week. “I think that by staying in shape in the offseason, you are able to have a leg up in the regular season,” Moore commented. “Instead of conditioning during practice, we are able to work on the specifics which help further our abilities and help us with the close games.”
However, for fall sports, such as field hockey, the winter workouts do not hold quite the same weight as their spring season counterparts. According to junior Lindy Hamp, “We are just expected to continue to go to the gym and run and make sure that we maintain our conditioning from the season.”
After students return from winter break, the field hockey team will participate in an indoor league at Red Rose Indoor Arena in Lancaster, which lasts long enough to segue them into their nontraditional spring season. While the winter workout is important for maintaining conditioning, according to Hamp, it is much more important for her teammates to consistently follow their summer workout plan in order to better prepare for their preseason practices in August.
While many prospective students choose Division III schools because the majority of their sport is played in one season, they do not realize that athletics at Etown truly is a year-round job. Although the time commitment appears to be shorter because there are less required practices, the amount of time individuals put into their own training is much more extensive.