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Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 9:30am

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On March 13, in response to mounting concerns about the alarming spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the East Coast Conference (ECC) announced they were cancelling the 2020 spring sports season.

Even before the landmark announcement, Matt Kilcullen, Jr., Mercy’s Director of Athletics, had launched a plan of action for Mercy’s student-athletes, coaches and trainers. “We had discussions with our coaching staff on how to handle practices and competitions being cancelled as we still have an obligation to help our student-athletes stay in top form—physically, mentally and academically,” he said.

Kilcullen and the coaching staff started holding weekly Zoom video sessions with their teams to provide answers, encouragement and guidance. Senior players in redshirt standing, meaning that during their tenure they received an extra year of eligibility to play their sport, are facing exceptionally difficult decisions. “It’s a time of great upheaval for all students, but especially for those who are graduating this year,” said Kilcullen. “Many seniors competing in the spring sports season have had to put their plans on hold, deciding whether or not to return to school next year or graduate. We are doing everything we can to help them through this stressful period.”

These regularly scheduled video meetings allow the coaching and training staff, PACT mentors, faculty liaisons and members of the student-athlete advisory committee to gather for connection, strategic planning and mutual support. All are watching for signs that a student-athlete may be struggling, and the group discusses ways to offer their support.

Even such matters as physical fitness and nutrition are not to be neglected. “Sticking to a regular regimen helps athletes stay in shape and stay positive,” said Kilcullen. “Our strength and conditioning coaches, JD Tom and Dan Steinberg, have been terrific in setting up online workouts along with our coaching staff.”

The Athletics Department staff are also discussing more far-reaching matters with the ECC, such as changing regulations, the national letter of intent and options for graduating seniors whose futures are uncertain. “Our goal is to stay current on the rapidly shifting landscape of the pandemic, along with new regulations for all New Yorkers, and for the student-athletes themselves,” Kilcullen said.

The Athletics Department website includes a link to the ECC’s resources for student-athletes, offering tips on managing stress, keeping in prime condition through exercise and nutrition, and finding opportunities to volunteer remotely to maintain a sense of purpose. “One day this will all be a distant memory, so we’re providing the resources that can help students stay focused on their goals,” said Kilcullen. “That’s Mercy’s mission — student success.”

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