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Division III lacrosse is making its return to the field after the pandemic ended the last year early. What will this weird season look like?

Division III Lacrosse Navigation of the Pandemic

Division III lacrosse is the largest division of lacrosse in terms of the number of teams and athletes. We are fortunate to bring on Hope College coach Mike Schanhals to help us navigate the Division III landscape.

As a Division III lacrosse coach, Schanhals has an inside understanding of how the level has been affected by the pandemic and what navigating it has and will look like. These are his insights.

Division III Lacrosse in the Pandemic

NESCAC is back

We were all cheered to learn this past week that the NESCAC will start playing again in April. This is really good news, yet it will undoubtedly create decisions and situations for those teams to wrestle with as they prepare for play. We (Hope College) were in a similar place last month. Who will be available from our roster to play? Are there students on-campus who are taking classes in-person? Are there students on-campus taking classes remotely? Are there students off-campus taking classes remotely? Are there some students who opted out of this semester knowing it would perhaps not happen from a lacrosse standpoint?  

Scouting in the dark

The rosters will undoubtedly look different at each DIII institution. This poses unique challenges as we scout to prepare for each contest, especially when your schedule is limited to conference games, most of which haven’t been played since two seasons ago. No film and no solid roster, coupled with no early season out-of-conference play, coaching changes at some schools, and obvious limits to live scouting due to COVID fan restrictions, but you have to get your team ready to play? Challenge accepted – each program will be fired up to play. 

What it will take

Teamwork, cohesiveness, and discipline will be crucial. Each DIII program will undoubtedly work hard with the personnel they have available to be as together as possible. The pandemic has presented many challenges, but each day we get to be together on the field is a joy. We have been fortunate to have some of the best practices I have ever been involved with in my 30 years of coaching. These men are taking nothing for granted, are locking in to each day’s work, and are pumped to be back on the field together. There are brighter days ahead for our NESCAC brothers and the other Division III programs returning to play.

Blessings in disguise

This is a unique year to watch Division III games across the country. Our coaching staff is grateful for our Hudl exchange, where we can watch game film across all three divisions. We have been so excited to see any lacrosse over the last month. That said, try not to put too much stock in early season polls, rankings, and predictions. There is an awful lot of season left, with many unforeseen challenges for each program – especially because each team has not had the same level of preparation.  

Roster depth will be a huge factor. COVID quarantine protocol is governed by the local health departments and can change week-to-week based on numbers of positive tests in the county. When a student-athlete is quarantined due to a close contact, they may test negative and still remain in quarantine for 10-14 days. This may mean that they miss two to three games depending on how the schedule falls.  

Another blessing of more Division III lacrosse teams beginning to play is the likelihood of having an NCAA Division III Tournament this spring. The NCAA Division III basketball tournament was cancelled due to not having enough member teams opting in to play. Our Hope College women’s basketball team was undefeated for two years straight, and our nine seniors lost their opportunity to compete in the national tournament. This type of uncertainty poses yet another challenge to athletic administrations at each of our schools. We are grateful for all of their hard work and appreciate how hard this has been for them as well. I really appreciate them going to all the meetings, so we can be out on the field playing. Fingers crossed for a great rest of the 2021 season.

Catch up with Coach Mike

Twitter, IG, Team Website

You can also hear his interview on the Going Offsides podcast below:

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