As COVID-19 shakes up the sports world, Moorpark Athletics looks to online solutions to overcome problems

Freshman+Trevor+Santos%2C+left%2C+Sophomore+A%27Zhaun+Molett%2C+middle%2C+and+sophomore+Edyon+Batta%2C+right%2C+walk+onto+the+field+during+the+Sept.+7%2C+2019+game+against+Palomar+College+in+Photo+credit%3A+Ryan+Bough

Freshman Trevor Santos, left, Sophomore A’Zhaun Molett, middle, and sophomore Edyon Batta, right, walk onto the field during the Sept. 7, 2019 game against Palomar College in Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Kennedy Collier

As the country grapples with COVID-19 and the many challenges it brings, a lot of people try to find the “normal”. For many that “normal” involves sports. With four major professional sports leagues resuming their seasons, college football has decided to play a more mutated version this fall. But not every program from every school will have the opportunity to play this fall.

Some Athletic Directors, like Moorpark College’s Vance Manakas, have set their sights on starting their seasons in the spring. But, as with many things happening under the pandemic, planning on how to execute this upcoming spring has been difficult.

With new information about COVID-19 coming out all the time, Moorpark College had to adjust its plan with each new announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We prepare for something and it changes as soon as we finish preparing for it,” Manakas explained.

While Manakas has never faced a situation quite like this in the four years he’s been the Director of the department, he said that flexibility is key.

“We have to be flexible,” Manakas stated. “Our coaching staff has done a fantastic job of being flexible and understanding the big picture.”

With student health being a priority to Moorpark College, the Athletic Department has changed how they interact and prepare student-athletes for this spring season. Instead of face to face meetings, coaches and players meet on Zoom. In fact, most everything, from the counseling appointments, to weight training and team meetings, have all moved online.

Head coach Jake Gwin encourages his team to keep fighting after giving up one goal to the Vaqueros. Moorpark lost their home game against Glendale Community College on Tuesday, Sept. 24. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt
Head coach Jake Gwin encourages his team to keep fighting after giving up one goal to the Vaqueros. Moorpark lost their home game against Glendale Community College on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

This transition to an all-online regiment can be draining on anyone. For Jake Gwin, the head coach for the Men’s Soccer Team, he notices challenges the team wouldn’t normally face.

“You can see the moral go down after the eighth or ninth Zoom meeting. You can see it in their face,” Gwin explained. “My job as a [head] coach is to keep hope alive.”

Looking for hope where it can be hard to find is the hardest part of a coach’s job. But, Gwin seems determined never the less. He believes that Moorpark College has done a good job when it comes to making safety a top priority which has made his job easier.

When looking towards a post-COVID world, the men’s soccer coach also seemed optimistic about the return to play.

“I believe some of the traditions like shaking hands or throwing water will be gone for a couple of years. But the game will stay the same,” explained Gwin.

Daniel Oseguera, a member of the men’s soccer team, said he isn’t letting COVID-19 get the better of him or his team. He has noted that one thing feels significantly different this season.

“Chemistry is definitely the biggest difference,” Oseguera explained. “I’ve seen teams fall apart [due] to no chemistry.”

Forward Alec Silva steals the ball away from the LA Mission Eagles during the home game at Moorpark College on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Moorpark lost to LA Mission 2-4. Photo credit: Ryan Bough
Forward Alec Silva steals the ball away from the LA Mission Eagles during the home game at Moorpark College on Tuesday, Nov. 5 2019. Moorpark lost to LA Mission 2-4. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Teams can win or lose a season based on chemistry. It is something that must be built and usually, that takes time. In order to stay in shape and keep the chemistry alive, Oseguera and a small group of teammates have been training together off-campus for the past five months.

“We take it very seriously,” Oseguera said, “We want to be prepared for whenever we are allowed back on the field.” 

The squad works on everything from footwork and fundamentals to more fun exercises that encourage creativity. They try to get in as much work as possible in the couple of hours they have together. But, as is common with most college student-athletes, practice is sometimes cut short due to someone having to go to work. Oseguera and his teammates are very hopeful that his team is putting in the necessary work to be able to compete in the upcoming season.

Another thing that people seem to forget is the eligibility of the student-athletes and how they earn a scholarship to play at the next level. When students are not able to transfer normally with little or no film, they are caught in limbo.

“If they’re ready to move on academically, do [students] stay just to play a sport for another year? Or do they move on?” Manakas asked. “And if they are able to move on, they might not have the film to be able to do so.”

Wide Receiver Dylaan Lee breaks through multiple tackles as he completes a 47 yard reception during the home game against Ventura College on Oct. 27. Photo credit: Ryan Bough
Wide Receiver Dylaan Lee breaks through multiple tackles as he completes a 47 yard reception during the home game against Ventura College on Oct. 27, 2019. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

As Moorpark Athletics tries to prepare for the spring season, there is no way of guaranteeing that the season will actually happen.

“We are really at the mercy of COVID-19 and how the state responds,” Manakas said.

With the fall semester in full effect and spring around the corner, Moorpark College will be one of many schools that will have a full year of sports in one semester.

With sports like football playing this spring, colleges will also have to determine the best way to return to sports in the following fall. It will be hard to justify playing two full seasons of football in less than a year.

With no one truly knowing what life will be like in the spring, Manakas and his staff will just have to continue preparing for the unpreparable.