FDU Coaches Seek Safe Path to Get Back to Competition

By Jen Malti

Staff Writer

Fairleigh Dickinson University coaches are saddened, but not surprised with the NEC President’s decision to cancel fall sports.They are hopeful for a return to competition in the spring, and are using this opportunity to focus on training and skills.

As the future of COVID-19 and university life remains unclear, the coaches say they are following protocols to ensure their teams’ safety as well as that of their opponents, staff and officials. They have no objections to the NEC decision.

“I think the NEC did a good job,” Rob Warren, coach of the men’s and women’s golf teams, said via email. “It’s in the best interest of our student-athletes at this time to not be put in a situation where they could contract the virus.”

Jeff Brandes, who coaches the men’s and women’s tennis teams, sees a silver lining.

“Considering we are in the midst of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic, just the fact that we are able to [train], is a win in my mind,” Brandes said via email. “There are many schools that are not having any athletics so, in the overall scheme of things, we are very fortunate.

This is Brandes fourth season as tennis head coach.

“I think the presidents’ decision makes sense,” Brandes said. “While it is certainly disappointing to not have competitions, we are still able to practice and have strength and conditioning.”

Seth Roland, men’s head soccer coach for 23 seasons with seven NEC championships, told The Equinox via email that the NEC decision,“was fair and appropriate.”

Eric Teepe, women’s soccer head coach, said via email, “Our team has been training and is looking forward to competing against another school in the new year. They want to bring back the NEC title to FDU.” 

This is Teepe’s sixth season. Women’s soccer won its first NEC title in 2015, beating Robert Morris, 1-0.

“Currently, we are training as a full team but doing so in a socially distanced and safe manner on the field at all times,” Teepe said. “Our women’s soccer goals are focused on improving our individual skill development and increasing our conditioning levels while we wait to get back to games. 

“The goal is to get our student-athletes ready to compete this spring. COVID-19 has had us deal with numerous scheduling changes and playing in the spring will give us the best opportunity to have that competitive experience.”

Kevin Rodgers, women’s volleyball coach in his first season, said via email,“It was the best decision for the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff.”

“Our workouts and training have followed NCAA guidelines for return to play. At this time we are practicing with no physical contact and we wear masks throughout all of practice,” Rodgers said. 

Teepe had similar remarks about women’s soccer, “Certainly we were happy that as a program, in all areas from our soccer staff, medical team, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coach, to be able to train. We have been able to provide a plan for our women’s soccer team to train as safely as possible.”

Roland has also been training the men’s soccer players, following a “strict phased-in approach.” 

“Everything begins with strength and conditioning in pods, evolves into skill training in pods and eventually group play and training,” he said.

Even the sports with less contact, like golf and tennis, are also taking the initiative to train. 

Warren, the golf coach, said, “Our sport is a low-risk sport, however there’s other factors to consider and that they play and practice at their home club, Edgewood Country Club (River Vale, N.J.), where the players can get great work in and compete amongst each other, and hopefully be ready for our spring championship season.”

Warren has 10 NEC crowns in 12 years coaching men’s and women’s golf. The women have seven titles, while the men have three. 

The Equinox reached out to the coaches for women’s bowling and fencing but did not get a response in time for the publication of this article.

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