By Melanee Terry
Student athletes across the country have dealt with a lot of changes to their sports this past year and the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s athletic director, Dan Kane, has been helping his athletes with those difficulties. Through Dan’s positivity and hard work, the UMPI Athletics Program was able to make a safe return to athletics last fall, ensuring students the ability to play the sports they love.
Along with his position as Executive Director of Athletics and Recreation, Dan is also the Head Men’s Basketball Coach. He oversees all operations and staff of the Athletics Program. Dan also has the responsibility of ensuring compliance with all federal, state, NCAA, and North Atlantic Conference regulations. A huge aspect of his job is creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for student athletes.
The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled all NAC sporting events last March and it has continued to affect all team sports on campus. Dan has spent a large portion of time this year meeting with other athletic directors and health officials, working to create a safe environment for everyone in athletics, so students can continue playing. He has collaborated with the athletic training staff so that they could create safety protocols and procedures. COVID-19 testing, athlete transportation, and scheduling has also been a priority for Dan.
“It has been challenging. I just try to plan out as much as I can ahead of time and try to stay ready for sudden adjustments we may need to make. When those adjustments are needed, I try to stay positive with things not going exactly the way we would like and make the best out of the situation,” Dan said.
Wieden Hall has always been UMPI’s main area for student athletes, but that has had to change to keep everyone safe. Coaches are asking athletes to use the building only when they have to. Wieden has had much less traffic to keep up with social distancing regulations. This has been a difficult situation for Dan, who misses those daily interactions with students and players.
Dan’s players on the men’s basketball team have had to follow COVID-19 regulations during practice and meetings. In the beginning of their season, the team started practicing in small groups. After this phase was complete, they moved into full team practices, which were socially distanced whenever possible. Anytime the team was together for practice, travel, or gametime, they wore masks.
“I couldn’t be more impressed with the sacrifices our student athletes have made and the dedication they have had this year to compete in our sports while keeping themselves and our campus safe,” Dan said.
Spring sports on campus, which include baseball, softball, and track & field, have all been practicing throughout the semester. Dan’s goal for the spring sports is to play as many games and meets as possible, as long as it is done safely. All spring sports were cancelled last season, so it has been a major focus for spring athletes to play.
“We are feeling optimistic about a great spring season as we were one of only two of the D3 campuses in Maine to play sports this fall,” Dan said. “More campuses played sports this winter and it looks like even more are looking to play this spring.”
One of the most difficult aspects of Dan’s job has been telling athletes that they would not have the same season as years past. He has had to make a lot of difficult decisions and does not want to let down UMPI’s student athletes.
“We can’t provide the typical UMPI experience to our students and student athletes that we pride ourselves on. However, we are trying to make the best out of a tough situation and we are always doing what we feel is best for the well-being of our student athletes,” Dan said.
He also recognizes all the hard work that every athletics program member has done. Every coach and trainer on campus has done something to contribute to the program’s success. Without their teamwork, some athletic teams may have not even been able to play games.
This pandemic has affected the athletic world in every way and the entire UMPI Athletics Program was able to step up when needed. Dan and every coach, trainer, and member of the program showed acts of leadership and optimism this year, which makes them perfect examples of Owl Heroes.
“We will feel much more appreciative for many things that maybe we took for granted, such as the times after practice where the guys stop by the office to hang out,” Dan said. “Those were some of the funniest and most enjoyable times you will have as a coach, especially with the special group of student athletes we have here at UMPI.”