What do you think about everyone sharing a “season” for training?
Well, it’s the only option we have if we want to play. So it’s fine… These athletes, they come to school for academics, but they also come here to play volleyball or play football or whatever sport they love. They’re not scholarship athletes; they’re here because they love it. If this is what we have to do so they can play, that’s what we’re going to do.
It wasn’t allowed in the fall and it’s allowed now, so…
It’s a real strain on our staff, of course, to have fourteen sports going on at once. We’re not really built for that, but if that’s what we’ve got to do, we’re all in. Absolutely.
My job is to promote our student athletes, and if they’re not doing anything that’s promotable… it’s challenging. We came up with some ideas but… it’s challenging.
And it’s going to be challenging these next several weeks with our scheduling, but if that’s what we have to do to get these athletes to play, then by golly, that’s what we’re going to do.
What kinds of problems do you personally anticipate with having so many students and trying to get them ready at the same time? Other than staffing.
So if volleyball’s going to play, volleyball’s already going to play. We’ve already got that taken care of. We know how… Our coaching staff, our administration already knows how to put on a volleyball game, and they know how to get their players ready to play a volleyball game. So that hasn’t changed, at all.
All that’s changed, other than the masks and social distancing is… and that’s minor compared to actually competing which isn’t any different.
No, it’s truly a staffing issue for us. That’s it.
We play home games six days a week for six weeks plus multiple events at the same time. That’s going to be the challenge for us.
The football game’s going to be a football game. It isn’t going to be any different.
Are you excited that this is going on?
Oh God yes. Oh heavens yes. Finally.
I thoroughly enjoy watching the Polar Bears play ball. Let’s play ball!
I think I’m in my twenty-seventh year of doing this… it was really disappointing that we haven’t played a game, that we went from March 12 to January 22 without playing a ball game. That was very disappointing for the students. I feel for these kids. I see how much they enjoy it.
See… I am a firm believer in the role that college athletics plays in the education of a young person. It’s a huge learning experience: the life lessons you learn playing athletics, the preparation, the teamwork, those kinds of things… the personal dedications, you work hard and get results…
Most of the time. Sometimes, you don’t; the other person on the other side is trying too.
How do you handle adversity? How do you handle failure? You’ve just won three-in-a-row. How are you going to react? You scored a touchdown, and you’re up seven. How are you going to react?
Those are things that you deal with in life every day.
It’s not just pick yourself up when you get knocked down; that’s the story that everybody knows…
But now that you’re winning, how do you handle that? And the other team starts coming back.
That’s a whole different set of pressures that a lot of people who aren’t athletes don’t get a lot of experience at… until they hit the real world, and that’s one huge advantage that athletes have.
A lot of us know how to work hard, and do that kind of stuff… There aren’t that many jobs either where the other guy is trying to make you fail, that the other guy in the desk across from you is trying to make you fail. (At least you hope not) I mean in the corporate world, we all know it happens, but it’s not…
You know that guy right there he’s trying to tackle me… He’s trying to block my shot. That’s right there in your face: “I want you to fail.”
Having that life experience, I think that is a tremendous complement to the college experience.
So for these people, giving them the opportunity to play ball, I think that’s… why a lot of them are here. Academically, we’re a great school; I mean, they’re all here for academics, but that they have the chance to come here and play ball as well, at a place like Ohio Northern is very appealing.
Compared to this year, were other years easier to promote?
Well, easier… because it’s easy to promote athletes when they’re doing promotable things. I mean Ohio Northern is, at the Ohio Conference, at a Division III school, we’re a very good athletic program across the board. So we win more than we lose. We have more success than we do failure, as a group.
So our athletes… It’s pretty easy to promote them, frankly. They do a lot of really good things, both on and off the court. We win more than our share of games, and we get more than our share of accolades.
So obviously, with nobody playing ball… Do you get on onusports.com, do you follow onu sports at all?
(I do occasionally. ‘Cause I write some sports stories, I tend to look at least once a week.)
So have you seen, over the summer, over the fall, we did the “Did You Know”s from Klondike? That was one of the things that we came up with to generate content, to promote our program. Because nothing was happening now, Klondike was telling you successes we’ve had in the past. So that is one of the paths that we took to generate content and keep Ohio Northern athletics out there in the twittersphere, and the website and in people’s minds.
And that’s just one of the things that we came up with to engage students, and alumni, and fans… Help our coaches recruit.
So that was definitely more challenging, having to generate that kind of stuff rather than watching the kids play and telling people what happened… That’s pretty easy. Content generation right there. You know, you don’t have to get very creative to “hey we won seventy-eight to seventy. CJ Naker had 22 points.”
I didn’t have to come up with that. They did that.
This year has definitely been more challenging, but this is what we do. So the fact that it’s hard isn’t that big of a deal; it’s always hard… time commitments, you don’t get weekends off, ever… summer…
That was crazy having all those weekends off. My wife didn’t know what to do with me. I didn’t like it… It’s really funny; I didn’t like it.
‘Cause, I know how much it means to these kids to get to play. I saw them, when we shut them down, back in March… the disappointment. Some of these kids will never get to play again, because they graduate, or they get injured, or whatever…
But that heartbreak they felt, that through no fault of their own, to be told that you can’t play anymore. That’s hard, especially when that’s been such a huge part of their lives.
And I’ve said this before, but I really believe in the life lessons that you learn as an athlete, good and bad… that you don’t get in other areas of life, as a young person. That’s unique to athletics, and I think, as part of a college education, it is a wonderful part of it.
So I am a firm believer in what Division III, and the NCAA in general is trying to accomplish with this kind of stuff. I think it’s very worthwhile… and I believe in it. So the fact that we’re getting out and doing it is wonderful… even if it’s going to be a sleep in my office a few days…