Are Whitman Athletes Ever Out of Season?

Susanna Williams, Staff Reporter

A common misconception of collegiate sports, most prominently at the DIII level, is that they come to a halt when the traditional season is over. However, it is more accurate to say that when the season is over, the real work begins.

But wait … what exactly is an “official off-season?” According to the NCAA, there are two official seasons in the academic year for each sport. One is considered a playing season and the other a practicing season. Depending on the sport, coaches are allocated a certain number of practices over a certain amount of weeks. For example, NCAA allows women’s soccer programs at the DIII level to practice a total of 16 times in the spring season, in addition to two regulation soccer contests, or 180 minutes of competition activity.

We spoke to several athletes who are currently coming to the end of their respective official off-seasons: Claire McCarthy, a first-year volleyball player; Codie Conching, a junior volleyball player; and Ellie Chidsey, a first-year cross country runner.

Whitman Wire: What does a typical off-season schedule for your team/sport look like?

Claire McCarthy: This year, we started captain’s practices and lifts about a week after we got back from winter break. We lifted twice a week, had a “metcon” every Friday (which is just roughly half an hour of intense agility followed by abs), had at least one open gym a week, and coached at PONO volleyball academy twice a week. After spring break, we started our official spring season. We have team practices once a week, individual sessions based on position twice a week, lift twice a week, and coach at the academy twice a week. Even though we have mandatory lifts and practices, most of us workout more on our own time, or play grass for extra reps, so when we step into the gym, we are walking into the gym stronger and ready to compete at a higher level than the last time.

Ellie Chidsey: Whitman has a club track program which operates officially for five weeks in the spring semester, from roughly after Presidents day until the first week of April or so. During those five weeks we operate like a varsity program (meaning use of varsity weight room, coaches and Whitman athletics funding).

WW: How does the focus of the official off-season differ from the regular season (besides not playing conference games)?

Codie Conching: We focus a lot on the little things. We try to tackle the things we need the most improvement on. We usually have individual meetings with our coaches at the beginning of the spring to talk about what our main focus is for the 16 days we have. I like the positional practices in the spring because the coaches are more available for one-on-one critiques and improvements, whereas in the fall we don’t have much time to work on the specifics.

CM: The work we are doing now is completely different from what we have done in our regular season. There is a much greater emphasis on our mentality and building our physical strength, as well as a focus on the basic skills and creating connections with our teammates (like from passers to setters and from setters to hitters).

WW: What do you think is the main goal of the off-season?

CC: [The goal of the off-season is] to fine tune the things that we needed to improve in the past fall, get strong (in the weight room) and create a culture of hard work to carry on into summer training when we are alone, wherever we may be.

WW: How important do you think the off-season is to the success of your team?

EC: It is up to each runner’s discretion how many races they do, so it is pretty individual how that translates as success into the next fall season.

CM: Without the spring season, I don’t think our team would have grown as close, strong and competitive. Spring season was necessary, and although it has pushed us to our limits many times, I would gladly do it all again and am excited to do it again next spring because I know that I will grow even closer with these amazing, strong, intelligent women who have become my best friends and the memories we will make from it.