Voorhees College Baseball Looking Beyond the Pandemic With Health And Wellness Program

The Voorhees College baseball team can feel uncertain about many things. What the 2021 roster will look like, when and where games will be played and how that still isn’t clear. With the start to the coming season, it’s going to present different challenges. Normally, the college baseball season would be in full swing right now with fall ball practices giving HBCU teams a chance to monitor top prospects in the weeks leading up to the first pitch.

With college games on a so-called stand still because of last seasons virus outbreak still active, athletic departments can only do so much in what is clearly an abnormal year. Every collegiate baseball team faces similar obstacles.

The challenges began when teams stopped playing baseball about six weeks into the 2020 spring season.  What is the next hurdle the Voorhees baseball program faces?

Both the NCAA and NAIA along their conferences can expect changes to the way games are played if they get played at all. This year, head coach Marcus Smith had his team participate in a Student Athlete Health and Wellness Workshop.

The workshop helped the players and coaches understand the health threat and ways to protect from omission and ways to steer clear of being affected in both inside and outside of social distancing. College programs could reap the benefit from the health and wellness seminar.

Coach Smith stated “we’re going to prepare almost like we prepared for any season, just more cautious.” The uncertainty about the season this year could also make for some tricky decisions for coach Smith. Will there be a place to play, whether a recruit decides to go or stay with eligibility remaining. There’s a host of information that you’d want to know, and then that’s really where I think HBCU baseball teams can differentiate themselves. I think that’s what the focus will be on, demonstrating to players, demonstrating to parents, demonstrating to coaches, and people that we care about these players. Voorhees is going to go above and beyond in taking care of their student-athletes on and off the field. Social distancing has certainly created a different routine.

No coach wants to tell his player that he’s got to spend Friday night at home in March, April and May, that’s just something no one should be accustomed to. Smith spent a ton of time on the phone communicating, whether it’s through phone calls or texts. “It was necessary.”

As Coach Smith prepares for the Tigers 2021 season, he has used the health and wellness program to make informed decisions. “My schedule has not changed. Practice wise we’re in groups, using Zoom and other presentations with plenty of video used to evaluate players because we need to see them more. We have way more information on the players.” Covid was an eye opener.

It led to a different approach on how Smith conducts his plan. This fall season, Smith brought in former Boston Red Sox player, Ron Jackson, Pittsburgh Pirates first base coach Tarrik Brock, and former Detroit Tigers pitcher Morris Madden who is scheduled to talk to the team. It is a different approach.

The good things is that they have not lost any scheduled games or budget for the season. Right now, they will play a 40-game schedule. This was their first mental health workshop. It forced the Tigers to apply fully to the task at hand, not leaving behind thoughts and worries may have had beforehand. In their place, mental and physical health is receiving more attention due to the virus.

The coaching staff would, of course, love to have infinite time to evaluate and get to know their players. But that’s just not the case this year and they’ll make do with what they have at the moment.

Voorhees and Smith approach is clearly focused on the players mental health, first and foremost as well as physical ability. This can be carried over into everyday life, helping to navigate the tough times and find a way through them. Smith understands that no doubt, regardless of skill level, being part of a sporting team has undeniable benefits for health and well being. “It’s an important factor in maintaining good mental health, being part of a team support network in tough times” Smith stated.



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