FLEMINGTON, NJ - The J.P. Case Middle School Athletic Department organized a “Virtual Step Challenge” for the entire month of May in order to continue engaging its approximately 125 young athletes in softball, baseball, and lacrosse, despite their seasons being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Students and coaches recorded their steps Monday through Friday for the month of May,” said athletic director Nicholas Colacicco at the board of education meeting Tuesday. “Each sports team is competing to see whose team can average the most steps through the month. The winning team will receive a plaque that will be showcased in our J.P. Case trophy section, and we are also giving away awards to the ‘Most Valuable Stepper’ (MVS) for each team who had the most steps to help out their team throughout the four-week span.”

Colacicco, who presented alongside two coaches, reported after three weeks that the softball team was leading the pack. One of the softball players, he said, walked the distance of a marathon on two separate occasions.

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Between all the spring athletes, 6,303,432 steps had been recorded, or almost 3,000 miles, after three weeks. And two of the spring coaches are among the top 10 leaders in total steps.

“We always talk about teamwork, not one individual is more important than anyone else,” said softball coach Dan Shirvanian. “I wanted to highlight that because I think that’s something our softball team has really done with the steps. The way the ‘Step Challenge’ works is it’s everybody included. It’s divided by the total amount of student athletes on your team.”

“That’s exciting to see that participation, because in a game like softball, it’s not just one hitter,” he added. “It’s not just your center fielder, and it’s not just your pitcher, but it’s everyone, and it’s really awesome to see that.”

The “fun and competitive” challenge involving steps, Colacicco said, is only one way that the athletic department is engaging its young athletes and continuing to motivate them to reach the next level in their respective sports.

“You plan for a great spring season, it didn’t really work out that way,” Colacicco said. “As athletes, we’re competitors. We set goals at the beginning of each season. We want to get better. We build chemistry with our teammates, and we prepare to compete and perform. We allow others to see all that hard work we put out there to come together on the big stage. It’s no different than the band or orchestra members who get to showcase their talents during their concerts or students in art club proudly hanging their unique pieces of art in the halls.”

Lacrosse coach Frank Corigliano spoke about the team and individual experiences in a virtual setting.

Across all spring sports, coaches are connecting with their teams by sharing different videos, like how-to skill videos. The staff is also sharing videos showcasing the history of their respective sports, as well recordings of different college and pro games.

“The important thing was we were trying to get some reactions from them,” Corigliano said about showing the games.

He added that the teams have met virtually and have used different fitness apps, or anything to “trigger conversations.”

“This is not a J.P. Case thing,” Corigliano said. “This is not a New Jersey thing. This is across the board nationwide. We told the players, especially the eighth graders going into high school, that this time could be used to bridge that gap, and what were you going to do as an individual athlete to excel yourself past your peers.”

Shirvanian also added that these virtual ways of connecting have helped make up for those bonds and friendships typically formed on the playing field.

“I do think about some of those Zoom meetings that Coach (Maggie) Lyman and I had the last couple of weeks,” he said. “We have more than a handful of student athletes come, and I don’t think they’re coming to see Coach Lyman and me. They’re coming to see their friends.”

Gov. Phil Murphy announced at the beginning of this month that all spring sports for schools were cancelled for school year 2019-2020, but said Friday that non-contact organized sports activities can restart June 22.

To learn more about the “Step Challenge,” visit: https://sites.google.com/view/jpcathletics/step-challenge?authuser=0.