Of all the things that changed this year, one element has remained the same and that is the way sports minimize the stresses of even the most difficult of daily routines.
When one steps on to the court, the rink, the track, or for some even the wooden floor of the bowling alley, they leave behind a world of homework and college applications for one of fun and games.
Like many other aspects of a life forever changed by the pandemic, sports are no exception to the numerous COVID-19 safety protocols that govern the way student-athletes must behave to keep themselves and their coaches safe.
For some, however, these new procedures do not promise enough to make them feel safe playing a sport and risking exposure to the virus. “Our team size is a lot smaller,” claims sophomore Mathias Alexander from Kingsway’s track team. “This year we only have about 80 kids, when during a normal season we might have 130”.
In addition to the decrease in athletes on the team, Alexander went on to add that they expect only half as many meets this season as years prior and that they will all be outside and against only one other team.
Even though the differences between this year’s season and last year’s seem vast and, in some cases, insurmountable, Alexander emphasized, “What has stayed the same is the bond that we [the track team] all have with each other and that we are unified in living by the ‘One Dragon Family’ quota. Maintaining tradition is important to us.”
Different teams tackled the demanding task of incorporating the necessary precautions while cultivating the components of the sport that make it worth playing in a myriad of ways.
For example, Kingsway bowling cracked down on the number of players at each lane.
“When we bowl, we split the team into pairs. Normally, we would have teams of five playing against each other, but now it’s limited to two,” notes second-year bowler Dylan McCarthy.
For track, which practices primarily outdoors, the team integrated a unique concept called pods that allows them to ensure that the whole team will not have to shut down if one athlete contracts coronavirus.
“Essentially, athletes are evenly broken up between distance runners, sprinters, jumpers, and throwers. Within a pod, there are about eight people who do their workouts together, so if one person gets COVID, their individual pod must quarantine while the rest of the team can still practice,” claims Alexander.
Of all the ways student-athletes realized modifications to their seasons, they seem to all agree upon the fact that the biggest struggle is getting used to the silence of the empty bleachers.
“I miss having fans,” continues Alexander. “They really make or break a meet by increasing your confidence in yourself and your training. Having a crowd just changes the whole vibe.”
In addition to the quiet of a sporting event without outside supporters, wearing a mask also proves incredibly troublesome.
McCarthy expresses, “Sometimes the mask will get in my eyes and distract me or change my breathing pattern a little bit. I don’t like feeling so awkwardly enclosed”.
For others, the time during the pandemic has been relatively beneficial in terms of their training.
In speaking to senior Sarah Sciubba, she disclosed that COVID has positively affected her growth as an athlete because bowling was one of the few activities she could do during the pandemic. She was able to focus a lot more time on bowling where normally she wouldn’t have been able to.
Regardless of whether athletes like Sciubba can see the benefits of this unusual season, it is safe to say that all athletes are eager to return to normal.
Dylan McCarthy sums this mutual feeling up best by saying, “I’m really looking forward to not having the constant fear of being shut down. It’s hard to focus on being an athlete when there is a global pandemic to worry about and being as cautious as possible to keep everyone safe.”
Coronavirus continues to embezzle a lot from everyone, but the one thing it surely cannot diminish is the pride and perseverance of the Kingsway Athletic Program and its athletes.
By Audrey Pachuta, Kingsway High School Student