Barbarick and PCC’s athletics program put the full-court press on COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge for Portland Community College in all aspects of its operations. But where most PCC programs have been able to transition to online and remote instructions, for PCC athletics COVID-19 has meant a complete cessation of all competitions, training, and practice.
PCC competes at the intercollegiate level in basketball and soccer. The virus has brought a temporary halt to athletics at PCC, just as it has for many other aspects of the college’s operations. Athletic Director Brad Barbarick faces the unique test of maintaining the continuity of his programs, the morale of his staff, and the engagement and fitness of his players — all while keeping an eye on the incoming pipeline of new student-athletes and planning for the larger future of athletics.
Why are athletics and community colleges such a good match, particularly at PCC?
Brad Barbarick: I think all of us that are affiliated with community colleges can attest to the opportunities and educational values that exist here. Portland Community College is a leader nationally among community colleges in academic offerings, opportunities and value for students of all ages and backgrounds. Obviously, I am biased, but I think community college athletics provides a great opportunity for people to learn and better themselves. When you are an intercollegiate athlete, you really have to learn how to manage yourself. Maintaining solid academic performance, taking a full academic course load, attending daily workouts and practices — it takes commitment and self-discipline. Many of our PCC student-athletes also work part-time jobs. I see consistently the life improvement skills PCC student-athletes learn because of the involvement in their respective sports. Our coaches invest significant time in helping our student-athletes in all areas of their lives. It is truly gratifying to see.
What is your program doing to help athletes stay focused on fitness training?
Barbarick: This certainly has been a year of unique challenges and adjustments for all of us at PCC. For PCC Panthers Athletics, there has been a lot of uncertainty. When the college made the decision to continue in online and remote operations due to the pandemic, it was difficult for everyone. We were the first Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) member college to announce that we would not participate in athletics during the 2020-21 academic year.
I can’t say enough about how hard our coaches have worked to keep current student-athletes engaged and committed to PCC. We do have some student-athletes who will be transferring to other colleges with the hope of competing in their sport this year. What has been great to see from the majority of them, is their decision to stay at PCC and focus on their studies, while preparing to compete in their sport in 2021-22. We have some online sport/fitness classes that many of our student-athletes enrolled in during the fall 2020 term. It has not been easy for our student-athletes to stay motivated when there is no gym or field access for them. I am extremely proud of how many have stayed the course and persevered. Our coaches have continued to be creative in trying to keep our student-athletes engaged and committed.
How has the pandemic affected recruitment?
Barbarick: The pandemic has created a unique recruiting landscape at all levels of intercollegiate athletics. All student-athletes, at every level of intercollegiate athletics, have been granted an additional year of eligibility because of COVID-19. This is going to create some backlog for high school and community college student-athletes hoping to compete at the next level. The NWAC has granted an additional year of eligibility as well for all current student-athletes. We see this as a good thing as we can keep the current student-athletes we have and also recruit some incoming high school players who may not have considered PCC previously.
Looking ahead to post-pandemic times, what is your vision for the continued growth of PCC athletics?
Barbarick: Our hope is to add some additional sports, including cross country, golf and e-sports in the near future. We are working on some specific plans for adding those sports. Eventually, we would also like to add volleyball, track and field, baseball and softball. There are numerous factors to consider when adding sports, including budgets, facilities availability, opponents and so on. With the current PCC reorganization going on, it is a strategic time to evaluate the positive impact that additional athletic teams can bring to the college. Adding sports brings more full-time enrolled students, as well as fostering unity and pride at all of our campuses.
On a personal level, what are you doing to stay fit and do you have any tips?
Barbarick: This has been a somewhat challenging time for figuring out ways to stay in shape. I have been taking lots of walks. I have a 3-year-old son, Landon, so I bring him along and push him on his trike. He loves it, and we get some good time together. We also spend a lot of time in the backyard running around, kicking the soccer ball and shooting baskets on his mini hoop. It actually has been a fun way to stay active and keep Landon entertained. One of the benefits of working from home is being able to have that extra special time with family. And as far as tips for fellow PCC colleagues, the best suggestion I can offer up is to enroll in one of our great online physical education courses. We have some great online PE courses with great instructors!
What are you doing to help pass the time?
Barbarick: Work has kept me pretty busy, but I have enjoyed the extra family time. I did a lot of yard work and projects late in the summer and fall.
As for Netflix — of course I have to go with my favorite sports-related shows. Here are my top five: 1. “The Last Dance” — Hey, who doesn’t love Michael Jordan? 2. “The Playbook: A Coach’s Rules for Life” — A great five-part series that featured different coaches from different sports. 3. “Last Chance U.” – Awesome series about football players at the community college level. 4. “The Carter Effect” — A fascinating look into the impact Vince Carter had on Canada when he played for the Toronto Raptors. 5. “The Speed Cubers” — really great story about competitive Rubik’s Cubers Max Parks and Feliks Zemdegs. I highly recommend all five!