When Notre Dame opened in a hybrid learning model last August, all eyes were on the High School’s ability to keep students safe, healthy and engaged. “I was excited for the student-athletes and coaches with the resumption of athletics last summer and I continued to be impressed as the fall season got underway,” said Notre Dame President, Ken Jennings. Jennings admits he was equally apprehensive regarding safety issues surrounding play during the pandemic. “Safety remains the number one concern for our students and coaches,” Jennings continued. “We took every precaution possible, including an appeal to parents to help the school stay vigilant while students were off-campus, and I believe that the Parent Partnership has helped the school remain open and kept our athletes on their fields, courts and tracks.”
Jennings attributes much of this success to Director of Athletics, Rich Roche. “In the end, thanks to the great work of our AD, Rich Roche, and our coaches, we have enjoyed a highly successful fall season across the board,” Jennings continued. “Our coaches have done a remarkable job leading our student-athletes. I cannot say enough about the example they have set under the leadership of Rich Roche.”
Roche, a 20+ year veteran of high school coaching and athletics administration thought he had seen it all – until COVID. "Our biggest opponent this season was not the other teams on our schedule. It was COVID-19,” said Roche. I couldn't be more proud of our coaching staff, support staff and student-athletes for their diligence and attention to detail in following the protocols. This season is not about championships. There are none to be won (CVC, MCT, NJSIAA). This season is about getting on the field with teammates and friends and enjoying the competition. We are already winners over Covid-19 for making it this far into a season unlike any other."
Roche agrees that ND preparedness has gotten ND where it is today – in school and playing sports. The school began to prepare for its hybrid model back in May with the formation of six SWAT teams focused on various aspects of school life. Roche chaired the Facilities and Safe Return to School Committee. "When the NJSIAA and Notre Dame administration gave us the green light to restart the athletic program in the summer, we already had a plan in place. The safety of our student-athletes and coaches was of paramount importance. Having the experience during the summer allowed us to fine-tune our protocols before fall season practices began.”
As winter sports try-outs loom over the next few weeks, Notre Dame awaits final directives from the NJSIAA. Jennings is optimistic, “I have full confidence in our athletic staff, as we did in the fall, we will ensure that our student-athletes have a great experience this winter.”
Located on 100 beautiful acres in Central New Jersey, Notre Dame High School, founded in 1957, is a college preparatory school for grades 9 - 12, preparing young men and women for lives of purpose, built upon a foundation of Catholic faith, with a commitment to academics, co-curricular activities and service to others.