Athletics Department Prepares for the Fall Season

Now that the General Faculty Council has approved the 2021–22 academic calendar, Oberlin College Athletics has, in collaboration with the Office of Student Life, announced the full return of athletics for the fall 2021 season. 

Fall sports will take place roughly within the traditional time frame, Associate Vice President for Athletics Advancement and Delta Lodge Director of Athletics & Physical Education Natalie Winkelfoos explained.

“Fall sport student-athletes will report to campus mid-August for preseason — with head coaches making more specific decisions,” she wrote in an email to the Review.

Head Volleyball Coach Erica Rau will have her team report to campus on Aug. 17 and has scheduled their first match for Sept. 1. With the summer semester stretching into September, Rau is slightly concerned by the fact that three of her athletes will be navigating preseason and finals simultaneously. Their first match falls right in the middle of the exam period. 

Rau also knows that some of her players will need to stay on campus for an unusually long period of time due to the three-semester plan, and anticipates this being extra challenging for students. 

“I am looking at this year as a transition year,” she said. “We are not quite back to the traditional calendar year, but we are close and we will have each other.”

College third-year and volleyball player Lauren Fitts is staying on campus for three semesters without going home. The travel back to her home state, California, is too complicated. 

“I am kind of sad that I have to stay on campus for so long,” she said. “I’m not going to get to go home at all in between any of the semesters, so it is going to be a long time to stay in Oberlin. I am going to try to make the most of it.”

Rau is also worried that it will be difficult for her team to transition back to being full-time student-athletes. 

“I’m most worried for the first-years who have not yet experienced a full season during the fall semester,” she said. “Hopefully, having six weeks of volleyball and without classes will help them transition into a full class load in October.”

For Fitts, coming back in February after having to take the fall semester off was more of a challenge than she was expecting. She anticipates it being even harder when she will have to go from class to practice to doing homework and playing games. 

“We had around 10 months off, so it will definitely take some adjusting,” Fitts said. “I know we will all have to be more diligent and brush up on our time management skills. Hopefully some time things will settle back into place though.”

College third-year and field hockey player Eli Modahl is ready to get back to being a full-time student-athlete again — it’s something she’s been her whole life.

“It’s been weird to not have a season for so long,” she said. “The busy schedule is always an adjustment, but it’s 100 percent worth it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The season has always been my favorite time of the year, regardless of how chaotic life can get. I’m a better student in season. I’m more productive, I’m healthier, I’m happier, and I’m with some of my favorite people doing one of my favorite things — what could be better?”

To lessen the load on her players, Rau plans to maintain a consistent schedule by October — she wants her team to have established a good routine when classes start.

“I hope to have some mini breaks blocked off as well when our training schedule allows,” she said. “I am always flexible with them academically as long as they communicate.”

Despite the challenges, Rau is looking forward to having her entire team back together and competing as a whole. She knows that this year has been hard for everyone and thinks that they all need to have some fun. 

“It was a tough year, but we were still able to accomplish a lot,” she said. “Our team culture is the strongest it’s ever been, and the closest we’ve ever been. We’ve also never been more talented.”

Modahl says she’s most excited to be back with her whole team on campus again. 

“Our team is really close, and being divided up for so long has been hard, especially when we’re already a small team to begin with,” she said. “I know we’re all looking forward to being together again.”

Modahl believes that her fellow players are all looking forward to coming back and taking advantage of being at full strength.

“We have our biggest team coming in this fall since I’ve been at Oberlin, and we’re looking forward to giving it our all,” she said. “COVID showed us that we can’t always count on things going the way we expect them, and I think that makes the opportunities we are given both individually and as a team that much more valuable.”

Winkelfoos says that spring student-athletes, along with the swimming and diving team, will report to campus mid-September to begin training activities. Winter student-athletes, including men’s and women’s basketball and indoor track & field, will arrive on campus at the set date for the entire student body. 

She believes that this will be another unique year for Oberlin Athletics as we transition away from the pandemic and three-semester model. However, Winkelfoos thinks that the most important thing is that teams will be back together and no team members will be left at home. 

“I am confident our teams will return and are ready to rise together,” she wrote.