Bowdoin women’s basketball coach Adrienne Shibles speaks to Tatum Angotti, left, and Maddie Hasson during a Jan. 6 practice in Brunswick. Portland Press Herald file photo Buy this Photo

Adrienne Shibles and her Bowdoin women’s basketball team knew they could win a Division III national championship last winter. 

When the Polar Bears were preparing for their Sweet 16 matchup against Trine University (Angola, Indian), the team also saw that the National Basketball Association had, at the time, suspended all play due to concerns over the coronavirus. 

The coronavirus quickly turned into a pandemic, Bowdoin’s season was cut short and spring sports across the country were later canceled as a result of COVID-19. 

For Shibles, the pain was felt most for her seniors. 

“The entire team was incredibly sad but the seniors, it’s a whole different category to end your career that way,” Shibles said. “These seniors had led our team so amazingly and such a young team to an incredible season. We truly believed we would win a national championship so to have that stolen was heartbreaking.”

Bowdoin, led by senior and D-III player of the year Maddie Hasson, was in cruise control through two tournament games, but the pandemic cut the season short. 

“I think it was a mix of disbelief and devastation when the season ended,” Shibles said. “We just finished a pregame scout and practiced for our Sweet 16 matchup on the final day. Spirits were high and we knew the NBA had canceled their season and everything unfolded pretty dramatically. All the teams flew in and we thought if we win, will there be a Final 4 in Ohio? It surprised us because the teams were here. The team from Washington was practicing in our gym.”

Now, with the summer in full swing and remote learning finishing across the nation, Shibles is turning to a revised method of recruiting; one that requires more video calls than in-person scouting and visits. 

“Every recruit I’m talking to, I’ve talked to three or four today and AAU coaches everyday, and I think a lot of AAU coaches are kind of calling it,” Shibles said. “But I think there are conversely that they are hopeful for some tournaments in July and it might be a different model where the games are videoed, but no one knows what’s going to happen.”

Bowdoin women’s basketball coachh Adrienne Shibles talks to her team during a 2018 practice in Brunswick. Portland Press Herald file photo

The question at Bowdoin and many other colleges is this: Will students be on campus in the fall?

Shibles is worried about the chance of lower numbers at Bowdoin if school continues to be online in the fall. Lower numbers would equal less money, less players, and way more questions than we had just three months ago. And her players are feeling the uncertainty. 

“All of us have been Zooming a lot with our players individually and as a team to stay connected, to make sure they’re all doing well and that their academic work is going well,” Shibles said. ‘A lot of honest conversations about the anxiety that lies ahead. No one knows what’s going to happen. We won’t know until probably late June when the president will announce the plans for the next academic year. When I asked the AD (Tim Ryan) he said, quote, ‘It will certainly be different next year.’

“Even if we are able to play it’ll be different and there is a lot of anxiety in the student-athletes. Lots of convos with the team and lots of convos with recruits. About Bowdoin. A lot of these younger players aren’t able to be seen and a lot of them weren’t able to visit campus and they were planning on doing a lot of research this spring and summer. So a lot of recruiting calls and Zooms to educate them about what we’re about.”

Ryan could not be reached for comment.

With the fall sports season fast-approaching, football head coach B.J. Hammer is preparing as if the season will kick off as scheduled. 

“There’s no other way to do it,” Hammer said. “That’s the mindset that I want our coaches and players to have. We will adjust. I think that’s one thing coaches learn how to do is adjust. We really need football as an escape and to get back to normal, but also just get back together.”

Hammer has also had to tweak his recruiting schedules all around. He’s also adapted to being a teacher at home to his three kids.

“Right now this whole weekend I should’ve been at Northwestern,” Hammer said. “They do a massive football camp evaluating 2,000 seniors, obviously we can’t do that. Our big New England camp in Boston was canceled. Just not being able to go out and evaluate, but even more than that, not having them out on campus. This didn’t affect our recruiting for the young men coming in this fall but the guys being seniors this fall, it’s tough.”

Hammer was sitting on his back patio watching film at around 5 p.m. on Monday before he had some video calls coming with potential recruits later in the evening. Video calls have become the norm for Hammer and his staff, checking in with recruits and also current players, making sure they’re keeping up physically and mentally. 

Bowdoin women’s basketball coach Adrienne Shibles speaks to her players during Jan. 6 practice in Brunswick. Portland Press Herald file photo Buy this Photo

Bowdoin has been doing calls on the video app Zoom with as many as 10 players on a call at once with Hammer and usually another coach or two. 

“We try to keep the calls to under 10 kids and have that individual touch and be as productive as possible,” Hammer said. “I used to recruit a much larger group of kids, but now we try to keep it to 5-10 kids we can spend time with them and answer their questions. I think it’s fun for kids that see me on the call and a kid they’re playing against on the same call.”

The coaching staff has also been constructing workout programs for individual players based on what kind of workout equipment each player has at their disposal.
“We have one time a week we meet with them in a position group,” Hammer said. “Quarterback coach with QBs, and so on. Honestly it’s more, ‘Hey how’s this going?’… We put the workout plan together. It was interesting we had to ask do you have weights, not have weights, so we did individual weight stuff for the guys. We put together a lot of programs with our guys. They are resilient and they wanted a normal. Once the exams started we gave them a couple weeks off. We are off with our summer training. We check in weekly and that’s kind of the deal. They’re all anxious to hear some good news.”


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