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Up and Running: School sports kick off

By Miranda Lu, Michelle Qiao, and Manasa Sriraj Mar. 17, 2021

Photos Courtesy of Yearbook


Over the past year, athletes like tennis player Katelyn Bump ‘23 have undergone a rollercoaster of emotions as policies around their sports seasons fluctuated due to the pandemic’s unpredictable nature. Last February, team rosters and practice times were finalized in anticipation of the spring sports season’s first games. However, when mid-March rolled around, athletes were informed that their seasons would be canceled until conditions were safe. As quarantine extended from weeks to months to now a year, school sports have remained inactive.

On Feb. 10, Athletic Director Mike Sparrer hosted a webinar, announcing to students and parents that some athletes would be able to start conditioning with their teams by the end of the month.

However, most athletes have finally begun to receive updates on the status of their school sports. On Feb. 10, Athletic Director Mike Sparrer hosted a webinar, announcing to students and parents that some athletes would be able to start conditioning with their teams by the end of the month. This came after San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) Deputy Superintendent Stephen McMahon announced on Jan. 28 at a board meeting that the district would allow students back on campus in small groups, or cohorts, that follow California’s COVID-19 guidelines. Public comments made during the meeting also asked the SJUSD to lift the ban on school sports, as the county and state had already done so.

At an earlier SJUSD board meeting on Jan. 14, Lincoln High School students Chloe Ligsay and Matteo Parodi supported the reopening of school athletic activities, citing concerns about the mental health and well-being of students. Ligsay pointed out that students hoping to get recruited for college sports are put at a disadvantage as athletes in several other states have already resumed their training. The school’s athletes have echoed this sentiment.

“Sports allow students to relieve their stress and anxiety with something they love while keeping healthy. Playing on a team allows students to connect with their peers and make new friends over a common interest. This is especially crucial during the pandemic when many people are mostly confined indoors and not very active,” Megna Nayar ‘23, a lacrosse player, said.

Based on each sport’s level of contact, the Blossom Valley Athletic League and California Interscholastic Federation condensed certain school sports into two seasons and identified each with one of the state’s four COVID-19 color tiers—yellow, orange, red and purple. Since the yellow tier is the least restrictive and indicates a low risk of infection, yellow tier sports are high-contact and indoors, while sports that can be played while a county is in the purple tier are low-contact and outdoors because that tier is the most restrictive and indicates a high risk of infection. In order for a sport to restart, the county needs to be in its respective color categorization. As ordinances become less restrictive, more sports will be allowed to resume play.

“Access to your favorite hobbies is extremely important to maintaining good mental and physical health. For now, athletes should start conditioning, since many have been sedentary during the pandemic,” Junior Varsity Girls Lacrosse Coach Sarah Schuster said.

Season one consists of the regular fall sports, with cross country in the purple tier, field hockey in the red tier and water polo, football and girls volleyball in the orange tier.

Season one consists of the regular fall sports, with cross country in the purple tier, field hockey in the red tier and water polo, football and girls volleyball in the orange tier. Practices for these sports started on Feb. 22 and competitions were scheduled to begin on March 8, but some games, like field hockey, were cancelled as the level of contact required was deemed unsafe. Season two consists of the normal winter and spring sports, with track and field, golf, swimming and tennis in the purple tier, baseball, softball and girls lacrosse in the red tier, badminton, soccer and boys volleyball in the orange tier and basketball, cheerleading and wrestling in the yellow tier. Sports in the second season will begin official practices on March 22 and competitions on April 5. As with the first season, safety will be continually evaluated. Even with the excitement of the renewed seasons, there are still concerns about the safety of athletes and coaches.

“Since my doctor did not clear my physical until recently, I was not able to attend the first couple of lacrosse practices. Even though I have now started playing, I am still a bit doubtful about the status of the season. Safety-wise, I am also not sure if that was the right choice,” Janice Shih ‘21, a lacrosse player, said.

In order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, athletes, coaches and other staff are taking precautions. Everyone is required to wear masks at all times, maintain six feet of social distancing, sanitize equipment, take their temperature at home, wash their hands and complete a daily symptom screening. There are now designated pick-up and drop-off areas; group gatherings and spectators at games are forbidden. Additionally, athletes within a sport will be divided into cohorts—designated practice groups—where attendance is taken on a daily basis. Members are mandated to stay in one cohort for a minimum of three weeks before switching to another. In spite of the numerous restrictions, many students and coaches alike support the reopening of athletics, highlighting that sports play a crucial role in many students’ lives.

“I am very excited about sports reopening. The social connections that sports provide are incredibly important—I would not have become the athlete or person I am today without the support of the school’s athletic community and my teammates. In this pandemic, it is easy to feel isolated and withdrawn, making in-person sports’ resuming critical,” Sam Chock ‘21, who participates in track and field as well as field hockey, said.

... the focus will be primarily on students’ enjoyment as well as physical and mental wellness. Games and matches will not be a major part of the experience, although they will take place outdoors and with safety precautions.

In order to prepare for these modified sports seasons, Sparrer recommends that athletes begin acquiring information about their sport’s schedule and stay as active as possible, doing cardio and weight training workouts and practicing sport-specific skills. However, some athletes like Ved Rao ‘24, a tennis player, find it hard to get the most out of their training.

“Since outside activities are limited, I am unable to practice very frequently. I play with my coach and some of my friends, but I am not improving as quickly as before—in tournaments, I had the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and the skills and strategies of various opponents. However, with restrictions still in place, I cannot do much more to prepare for the upcoming season besides focusing on staying active,” Rao said.

Sparrer explains that the focus will be primarily on students’ enjoyment as well as physical and mental wellness. Games and matches will not be a major part of the experience, although they will take place outdoors and with safety precautions.

“Our main goal is to keep people safe. We hope that everyone knows that we have the best of intentions. It is a fragile situation, with many students, parents and staff involved,” Sparrer said.

Recognizing that the circumstances are less than ideal, Sparrer asks for understanding on the part of athletes. The Athletic Department is hard at work making the best out of the situation and they hope that athletes will be able to enjoy the new season in every way they can.

 

About the Contributors

Miranda Lu

Staff Writer


Miranda Lu is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She enjoys hiking, reading, and watching movies in her free time.










Michelle Qiao

Staff Writer


Michelle Qiao is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She loves to play volleyball and spends her free time reading, drinking coffee and watching Pixar movies.









Manasa Sriraj

Staff Writer


Manasa Sriraj is a freshman at Leland High School and a staff writer. She is a STEM, puzzle, and geography freak and loves torturing her friends by spamming and "Rickrolling" on group chats. Her hobbies include listening to music, playing basketball and the guitar, experimenting with snack recipes (which usually result in messes), and building Rube Goldberg machines and gadgets out of Legos and other regular household objects.

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