Community colleges serve an important role in preparing students for careers, expanding skill sets or transferring to a four-year college or university. Beyond academics and a variety of student services, the Ventura County Community College District — comprised of Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges — enhances the student experience through robust intercollegiate sports programs.
In other words, academics, student services and athletics represent a winning combination for our students and community.
These programs for students run the gamut from golf and swimming to basketball, volleyball and football. Ventura College Pirate Athletics, for example, have 19 competitive, award-winning sports teams.
In the past year, these programs have looked different throughout the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of California’s community colleges opted out of participating in competitive athletics during the fall semester to maintain the health and safety of our student-athletes and employees.
As vaccination rates rise and infection rates fall in our community, it’s our job to continue encouraging our student-athletes to excel in the classroom and to step onto the sports field so they can continue to thrive.
As a 28-year employee of VCCCD and California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) board member, I know firsthand how sports programs can transform students’ lives.
Throughout the state, there are nearly 24,000 student-athletes who annually participate in intercollegiate athletics at community colleges, according to CCCAA, and there are more than 100 regional and state final events.
Aside from being enjoyable and keeping students in top physical fitness, sports teach students about themselves and navigating life situations. They learn the value of savoring the moment of a win, resilience in the face of a loss and being a good sport. And they learn about goals and working hard to achieve them.
These skills of persistence, leadership, confidence, time management and the ability to work with others from diverse backgrounds are critical to success in the classroom and the workplace.
Community college athletics also offer a second chance — and sometimes a first chance — for student-athletes to advance to competing at a four-year university and for earning scholarships. These scholarships can provide important opportunities for students with financial challenges to further their education and obtain a bachelor’s degree.
Plus, by attending a community college instead of jumping into a four-year university straight out of high school, student-athletes become acclimated to college life and develop skills to become better students. They also have high levels of access to student services on campus, such as counseling, financial aid and tutoring.
This semester, VCCCD opted in for the CCCAA Spring II season that started April 10. All college athletes and staff in the district are adhering to recommendations from the California Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA, as well as VCCCD Healthy Return to Campus protocols, to promote health and safety before, during and after sporting events.
The Spring II season has been a success, with students, coaches and staff diligently following safety protocols. We continue to encourage the students to get vaccinated for their safety and the safety of the people around them.
As athletic programs at each VCCCD college have returned to in-person practices and competitions, they have yielded gains for our student-athletes and faculty coaches. The return has provided them with structure, competition and a sense of camaraderie through direct — and safe — interactions. At the games, we see a renewed energy among the players.
There is nothing more vital to the student-athletes than striving to improve and enjoying the camaraderie of their respective teams.
It has been great seeing the athletes doing what they love and competing at such a high level, especially since their wins and losses do not count toward any post-season awards this season. They are purely competing for the love of their sport.
For the staff, it has been rewarding to watch the teams come together and witness the players sharing a laugh when they are at practice.
While we have limited the number of spectators at sporting events this season, we hope that starting in the fall you will be able to once again cheer on the Ventura College Pirates, Oxnard College Condors and Moorpark College Raiders in person.