Athletic department overcomes year like no other

By Emily Reed

During an indoor track and field event in March 2020, everything changed for the Athletics Department at the University of Montevallo.

“We were hosting the event at the Birmingham Crossplex when we got the call that the event was canceled due to everything shutting down with the pandemic,” said Athletics Director Mark Richard.

One year later, the University finally got to proceed with the track and field competition.

“We were just out there practicing last week, and we were able to hold the same competition on Friday and Saturday, marking the one-year anniversary of when things changed,” Richard said on March 16.

Richard, who oversees the athletics department consisting of 450 student-athletes and 21 sports, said unpredictability was the biggest challenge the pandemic presented for the department.

“We simply didn’t always know what was going to happen. The rules kept changing all of the time, and there was so much uncertainty,” Richard said. “Everyone always wanted answers, and it was hard to give those answers sometimes because we simply didn’t always know.”

Richard said many times UM athletes would prepare for an event to find out at the last minute that someone tested positive for COVID-19, forcing cancellations.

“At one point in January, we had one win for basketball and nine postponed games,” Richard said. “We went on an away trip to Valdosta, Georgia, where the students had to leave early. We found out once we arrived that someone on the other team had tested positive, which meant we had to turn around and come home. It was really tough.”

Richard said everyone in the Athletics Department is a leader, and it was important for everyone in the department to remain positive, even when things were difficult.

Since October 2020, Richard said the department has not seen many positive cases, crediting the staff and athletes for working to stay healthy.

As the director, Richard said the pandemic taught him to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

“I think if you are a planner or love talking to people face-to-face, this was a difficult period of time in your life,” Richard said. “It was very important that we adapt and change and be ready for whatever comes our way.”

Richard said most sports were played outside during the spring semester, making it much easier to curb the spread of the virus.

Student-athletes continue to be tested multiple times per week, and Richard is optimistic the number of positive cases will remain low.

Richard credited everyone working in the Athletics Department with allowing things to run as smoothly as possible during the pandemic.

“Great people can make great things happen,” Richard said.