By Mike Deak
WINONA LAKE – In the spring, IFN Sports ran a series of features on Grace College and the adjustments its athletic department was making. As spring has turned to summer, the department has adapted to state regulations, and athletic director Chad Briscoe has slowly emerged from behind his Zoom calls at his house and back to Zoom calls at the MOCC.
Briscoe, like many others, is happy to be back in his office, one decorated with all the tour stops and interactions of his sporting past. While the west side of his office slowly accumulates autographs and memorabilia of the sports interactions he has made, the east side is often filled with cardboard shipping boxes. Sometimes stacked to the roof, there’s always promotional T-shirts, shoes, team bags, staff tops, and whatever else Grace distributes to its people piled high. It’s a fine balance of organized versus not that Briscoe has enjoyed for over a decade in Winona Lake, and certainly a welcomed sight that isn’t dotted with sides of macaroni and cheese and boxes of crayons in the makeshift office at the Briscoe pad.
“There’s so many things that we’ll look back on five, seven, eight years down the road from people who have written books about their experience through this time,” started Briscoe, “And the first thing for me goes back to the beginning stages of learning in athletic administration is that flexibility has to be a part of your DNA. I can’t be so ridged to think that one thing is always going to be a certain way or the expectation of how a day is going to go.
“You have to be flexible and in this current time period of everything that we are doing, if you can’t be flexible, you are not going to be able to survive.”
Grace College announced in the spring it would return to campus in full this fall. It is planning on a full return with students, activities and athletics. For the latter, Briscoe has been busy trying to catch up with all of the rules and regulations coming down from the CDC to the NAIA, the governing athletic body for Grace College, the Crossroads League, et. al. Then, down to the aims of Grace president Bill Katip and the board of trustees and how comfortable his own coaching staffs are in returning.
“My coaches have actually been able to get to know one another on a deeper level, which I have really enjoyed,” Briscoe said in regards to the weekly Zoom meetings the department has held. “There’s been a lot of neat things they have been able to share with one another on how they are handling it, and maybe offering something to another coach on what has been working for them.”
Briscoe noted in the June interview that Grace has been fortunate to not have to drop any of its athletic programs as other institutions have. In fact, Grace is adding a few club teams to its roster including bowling and esports. Given the immediate fear and abrupt closings that swept over the sports world in March, Briscoe and the campus as a whole are counting their blessings that athletics will be part of an optimistic August.
“We’re all going to err on the side of safety,” noted Briscoe. “At the end of the day, safety is the number one priority here. Also knowing there are going to be programs in some capacity that will be affected by it, so what protocols do we have in place to help ensure, as quick as we can, a return to play for that athlete or athletes. And yet, try to salvage an end to the season that doesn’t affect the other players.
“These are all questions that the protocols are trying to address right now as we get a better look of what things could look like in the future.”