With the Southland Conference’s decision to postpone fall semester sports this year in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, teams at Nicholls State University are remaining hopeful for the opportunity to compete in the spring.
We’ll be taking you inside the Colonels’ fall sports programs as they look for the silver living in their newfound extra months of training and preparation.
Soccer | Head Coach: Danny Free
It has been a challenging few months for the Nicholls soccer program, but the Colonels are ready to take advantage of the upcoming extra weeks of training.
With 19 new players on its roster to bring the total to 32, the program is using its open fall as a way to build team chemistry and ownership.
Due to NCAA rules, Head Coach Danny Free said the coaching staff was not allowed to contact new players until they graduated from high school, which, for some, did not occur until July due to ceremonies being pushed back.
“It gives us a little longer to get to know them, and they’re going to have to take on that ownership themselves and that accountability themselves because they’re limited now to how many hours they can do,” Free said. “At the same time, it’s different from the spring and summer because they’re all on campus. They’ve all got access to the equipment, and obviously, as long as they’re not breaking COVID rules, they can do that together, so we’re really happy with the team chemistry.”
Free, who is entering his second season as the Colonels’ head coach after four years as an assistant coach for the program, said the coaching staff gave the team’s athletes four days off of workouts following the SLC’s announcement before resuming on Monday.
Free said the staff has done its best to make practice fun the last few days, but there is still an overarching disappointment over the loss of fall competition.
“It’s hard when the girls find out they’re going to lose obviously their fall season. Hopefully we can play in the spring,” Free said. “There’s a few sad faces, which you can kind of understand, and that’s on the coaching staff as well.”
Because the team is now technically out of season, it is limited to what it can do in terms of workouts and practice. During the season, Free said the team can practice 20 hours a week with players. Now, the Colonels are limited to eight hours per week, and the coaching staff can be with the players for only four of those hours.
For now, the Colonels are practicing for an hour per day, with times designated for weight room activities.
As speculation surrounding the season continues to circulate, Free said that blocking out the noise is challenging, but his coaches are upholding a promise to pass information on to their athletes as they receive it.
Free said he and his staff have focused on keeping the players’ mental health in check.
“It’s hard when it’s on ESPN every day and on Twitter every day, and obviously the girls have friends from different universities and different conferences and different divisions, and they’re all hearing different things. Free said. “What we’re trying to tell the girls is…we will tell you as soon as we know anything. As soon as we know something, we kind of let them know.”
Free said there is some sense of relief that comes with having certainty over what the next 13 weeks will look like, but he would like for his team to have a concrete answer sooner rather than later as to whether there will be a season in the spring.
If that season does take place, Free said he is confident in what fans can expect to see from his and his staff’s first recruiting class.
“The quality of the team is improved vastly, not only with the improvement of the young players, but the older girls have done the right things. We’ve got a great environment and a great group of girls, so we’re really excited,” Free said. “I’ve been here six years…It’s the best quality and the best energy that I’ve felt in those six years.”