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In light of COVID-19 pandemic, Badgers volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield pushes for move to spring play
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In light of COVID-19 pandemic, Badgers volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield pushes for move to spring play


It’s time for college volleyball to think spring, University of Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said Tuesday.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting life across the nation and bedeviling efforts to conduct sports at most every level, Sheffield thinks it’s time to give up even trying to play volleyball as usual in the fall.

And that opinion is shared by most all of the volleyball coaches across the nation.

“I think everybody has gotten to the point where they’d like to see us move to the spring,” Sheffield said on the Point Wisconsin podcast. “Let’s stop trying to move this back. We don’t even have a conference schedule right now, and we’re 10 days from preseason.

“If we thought there was a reasonable chance to begin this fall and finish the fall, almost everybody would say, all right, let’s go, let’s do this. This push for the spring is a feeling that we’re going to get started in the fall and not get anywhere close to being able to finish it.”

The Big Ten announced earlier this month that all fall sports would be limited to conference contests only.

The NCAA Board of Governors last week chose to delay any decisions regarding the fate of fall sports, likely postponing that call until its August 4 meeting. The NCAA doesn’t control how the Football Bowl Subdivision conducts its season, but it does determine what happens with the other sports.

Sheffield thinks it’s time to let each sport go its own way.

“For so (long) we’ve been trying to align ourselves with football,” he said. “I think right now we’ve got to separate ourselves from football and be our own thing. That’s an outdoor sport, they can wear face shields. We’re not wearing a face shield in our sport, you kidding me?

“What I think most (volleyball) coaches are wanting is football, you guys do what you’ve got to do if you’re wanting to continue to move forward and try to make that work, because there are some big-time complications in their sport of moving to the spring.

“But ours aren’t nearly as significant. Move ours, get that away from there. Everybody can kind of relax. I’m certainly hoping that at some point here we say, let’s move to the spring, let’s take that off of everybody’s plate. Let’s make good decisions. Let’s not cancel. Nobody’s wanting that.”

Big Ten coaches get together to discuss issues on a Zoom cam each Tuesday and Sheffield has been struck by the wide range in protocols from school to school. Players can only work out on their own until the official start of practice, currently set for Aug. 7. At one school only two players are allowed in the gym at one time and they can only use one volleyball. At another school there are no restrictions at all.

At UW, half the team works out on the two courts in the Field House, while the other half does weight and conditioning workouts. Everybody has to wear a mask at all times.

“For the life of me, I can’t believe we’re not all doing the same type of deal,” Sheffield said. “Not from a competitive standpoint, but from a medical and safety standpoint. All of us should be on the same page but we’re not. We’re not even close to it. Testing protocols are all over the place.”

UW players are tested once a week and so far one player has tested positive, though she was asymptomatic. The players were quarantined for 14 days and told not to work out.

With the core returning from last season’s team, which advanced to the NCAA championship match, the Badgers are considered one of the favorites to win this year’s title. But with all the uncertainty swirling around, Sheffield has a hard time imagining a fall season lasting to completion.

“Everybody wants to have a season,” he said. “Our players really want to have a season, coaches want to have a season, fans want to have a season. The fear that is going on right now from players and coaches is getting started in a season and it being canceled. There is a real fear of that and losing a year.”

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