Winter Sports: A New Reality

After months of waiting, Grace finally gave the green light to have a modified winter season for their student-athletes. While this is a major step in the right direction, many students, parents, and faculty alike paused to consider whether having a modified season is safe considering the ongoing pandemic. 

As a senior in high school, I have waited patiently and hoped the time would come for my final season of Grace athletics. For the past four years, I have played for the Girls Varsity Basketball team and have become a part of one big family with my teammates and coaches. This special environment, in addition to my love for the game, has made me want to keep coming back each season. When the lockdowns first began in March, looking forward to my senior season was one of the only things that kept my hopes alive. 

Unfortunately, I have come to the realization that we aren’t getting the senior year we all wanted, and when it comes to sports, the advantages of seniority seem to no longer exist. While Grace has begun holding small practices for some of the winter sports teams, students don’t seem overly excited by them. I, for one, will admit that I don’t go to basketball practice every time my cohort goes in—especially when the practice is held in the morning. There have been times when my friends and I all go and we all try to make the best of it, but many times it’s just me and a few freshman boys, so I usually find myself in the corner of the gym shooting free throws. Going into this modified season, I knew it was going to be different and I am trying to keep an open mind but it definitely feels depressing to know that I am not with the other girls on the team and have missed the bonding aspect of it all, which was my favorite part of playing basketball at Grace. Jaden Sorkin ‘21 said “It’s [This new modified season] depressing to be completely honest. I looked forward to competing this year and we really haven’t [been able to do that]. It’s no one’s fault. It just sucks. I wish I could aggressively go at my peers in some type of game or tournament.” Through discussions with friends and coaches, it’s clear that the number of people who are showing up to the already limited practices gets smaller and smaller each week. In an interview, Evelyn Ward ‘21, a member of the Grace swim team, said “Doing any sort of activity brings serotonin and that bonding community feel is exactly what we need. The school has done the most they can do and they are doing an amazing job with what they [have been]  given, but, because of COVID, [sports are] not the same. While we can’t have the final season we wished for, I want something to acknowledge what I’ve done in the past because I’ve been on the swim team since 8th grade.”

A struggle for all Grace athletes has been the number of people who show up to practice. Jaden Sorkin ‘21 said “In terms of the turnout, people will show up when it is convenient to do so. So morning practices should just not be a thing. Nobody wants to wake up at 7:00 am to then shoot around and be sweaty for their first class.” 

 Not only is time and turnout a concern, but the actual structure of practices has been a disappointment to students as well. Each cohort practiced when their day was in for in-person school and it would alternate each between morning practices and afternoon.  “I also believe that competition is necessary whether it is two on two or three on three tournaments or getting up and down 5v5,” added Sorkin. “We need to find a way to make sports feel more normal. People won’t show up if it is simply shoot around.” While everyone has their dream scenario of what sports should look like this year, Jaden made sure to give credit to the coaches, saying “You have to applaud coach Quinn and Armijos. They have done the best they can under these circumstances.” 

When asked for his thoughts on how the seasons have gone so far, Coach Quinn said “To be honest, I have been happy with the participation. The morning sessions are not as heavily attended but that was to be expected. I wish the swimmers could swim, squash could play squash, and every team was able to compete, but I appreciate everyone trying to make the best of this year. I will continue to encourage the athletes that signed up to participate and remain committed, but I can understand the lack of motivation without competition.”

Both Evelyn and Coach Quinn gave some advice to all the student-athletes who haven’t shown up to practice. Evelyn touched on this point by saying, “students who signed up for these sports need to stop overthinking it and recognize the opportunity and privilege they have. The gym is the biggest space in our school and we have a beautiful fitness room. need to be taking advantage of these spaces” It is not that the students are unappreciative of the chance to participate in sports, but rather that they are discouraged by the fact that the ‘season’ is really just a long, drawn-out practice. The school has done everything they could to even let us have somewhat of a season for each sport and it’s sad to see that being taken advantage of by students who just don’t want to go without a good reason. In addition, Coach Quinn said, “My advice to all our athletes is to remain active, encourage each other to stay committed to training and utilize this time period in which we are not competing to get better, so that we are at the highest level of fitness and our skills are sharp when we return to playing games.”

With the vaccine slowly starting to roll out, I am hopeful that we will be able to finish out our modified winter schedule and look forward to a potential spring season for Grace athletics.

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