The end of JV sports

By JACK KAGAN

Junior varsity sports, long popular among students wanting to participate in competitive athletics without committing to the rigor of a varsity team, were cancelled prior to the start of classes this fall. 

The Middlebury College Athletics Department, which coordinated junior varsity athletics, canceled the program amid concerns over a lack of scheduled games and new NCAA sports medicine guidelines that had put a strain on athletic trainers, according to Director of Athletics Erin Quinn. 

“Because most institutions do not have JV sports, it is difficult to create a credible, practical schedule,” wrote Quinn in an email to the Campus. Williams College, historically a regular opponent for Middlebury’s JV teams, recently dropped their JV women’s soccer and lacrosse teams. 

Most recently, the college offered JV teams for men’s and women’s soccer, men’s hockey and women’s lacrosse.

Alongside the scheduling difficulties, Quinn said that a new set of medical “best practices” released this summer by the NCAA was another driving factor in the decision. The guidelines were designed for varsity athletic programs, Quinn said, but Middlebury had long provided athletic trainers to JV programs as well as varsity ones. 

“We had similar medical oversight and expectations for our JV and varsity programs, and the new standards are difficult to meet with how the JV programs were operated,” Quinn wrote. 

Prior to the cancellation, JV sports had been putting “increasing pressure on sports medicine that made operating a safe program extremely difficult,” said Isabelle Hartnett ’21, SGA Committee director for Athletic Affairs. 

Unlike club or intramural teams, JV programs had access to the college’s professional training and sports medicine staff. With limited trainers and space, and multiple varsity teams practicing at any given time, there was a veritable strain on college resources. 

Some members of JV teams like men’s soccer received emails from coaches in the weeks before classes started notifying them of the cancellation, while others have yet to be officially notified. The Athletic Department did not make a public statement about the cancellation, and coaches of individual teams were tasked with letting their teams know, according to Quinn.  

“We did not make a public announcement because the decision impacts those students interested in participating, so we communicated directly with those students,” Quinn wrote. 

The lack of notice has left some students confused and disappointed.

“The team was a great way to meet other girls [with] similar passions because there is so little space to do that at [Middlebury] other than varsity sports,” said former JV lacrosse player Emma Lukens ’20. 

Former JV soccer player Matt Ravichandran ’20 also remembers his teams as a welcoming community where he formed close relationships. 

“It was a nice escape from campus life, without being as overbearing as a varsity sport,” he said.

In addition to serving as social spaces, these teams have occasionally provided coaches a look at previously unseen talent, as well as players who might, with a year or two of practice, be ready for a callup to the varsity program.

Ravichandran and Jess Cohen ’20 noted that JV soccer has been known to use the team to scout potential additions and as a rehab platform for varsity players coming back from injury. In addition, other sports teams have seen players make the jump after staying in form with the JV squad. 

Amid lingering uncertainty regarding the decision, students who want to continue playing their sport will have to consider playing at the club or intramural level. 

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