Fall sports check-in: Women’s rowing and softball adjust to fall without competition

With fall sports delayed until the spring semester, The Hatchet is checking in with head coaches from affected programs to gain insight on how each team is handling the pause on competition. Check back each week for new installments.

Women’s rowing and softball are going back to the basics as they prepare for a spring season.

The Atlantic 10 postponed fall competition to the spring, affecting fall regattas and scrimmages across the conference. Head women’s rowing coach Marci Robles and head softball coach Shane Winkler, whose teams were also affected by the canceled spring season, said the teams are holding online meetings and focusing on skills and fundamentals to stay plugged in this fall.

Here’s how the two teams are using the fall to prepare for spring play:

Women’s rowing
About half of the team’s 40-member roster are living in Foggy Bottom this fall, Robles said.

Women’s rowing traditionally competes during the fall term, but the bulk of its competition season comes in the spring. The Colonials usually compete in two to four regattas in the fall and double that number in the spring.

The team has begun specialized skill-focused workouts for student-athletes who are currently in the District. Robles said those who are still at home are working out voluntarily depending on the facilities available to them, and the coaching staff is working individually with them to figure out a training plan.

“There’s a much greater focus on technique,” Robles said in an email. “At this point, we’re only rowing small boats so we’re able to really break things down and take our time. Since we’re not racing this fall, there’s no rush to prepare for competition.”

Robles added that she wasn’t surprised by the decision to postpone the fall season, and coaches are continuing to meet with the squad regularly to keep them engaged. Rowers meet in small groups throughout the week, and the team meets all together at the end of each week, she said.

Softball welcomed 17 of its 23 players back to campus this fall and recently hit the field to practice for the first time this semester, Winkler said. He said student-athletes who did not return to campus have access to nearby facilities to practice, and the coaching staff is frequently keeping in touch with them.

“A lot of communication, a lot of getting on video calls and keeping them in tune with what we’re doing,” Winkler said. “When we start our team practices, we’ll stream some of those to the girls at home so they can watch how practice is going and learn.”

Winkler said as a spring sport, softball is not missing out on as many activities as other programs. He said the team’s biggest loss is the eight planned scrimmages, which included Power Five competition, that helps players get some extra practice in before the spring slate.

The squad added nine new players to its roster for the 2021 campaign. Winkler said he plans to hold scrimmages against one another to help the first-years get acquainted with college play and build chemistry.

“Right now we’re learning new habits,” Winkler said. “Social distancing, wearing the masks, making sure we’re taking every precaution necessary against COVID, but right now it’s slow-paced and really getting back into things.”

Belle Long contributed reporting.

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