Student-athletes reflect on year of change


By Becky Tang, Staff Reporter

From dealing with shorter sports seasons to playing games with masks on, there have been many changes to how student-athletes can pursue sports over the past school year. As a result of distance learning and the rising number of COVID-19 cases, most sports in the winter season had too few games than a normal school year that even if the team won every game, they would not have enough games played to participate in playoffs.

At the beginning of the school year, both coaches and students were unsure whether fall sports could start at all due to the virtual setting for distance learning. However, as the hybrid learning model became available, student-athletes were eventually allowed to play on their individual sports teams. 

Although the fall season was delayed by two weeks and pre-season training and conditioning were mostly canceled, freshman Ryan Carella, goalkeeper of Conestoga’s boys’ varsity soccer team, keeps an optimistic viewpoint while reflecting on his first year playing soccer in high school.

“Although it has been a rough year with COVID-19, it was definitely interesting to have my first year be a bit different,” Carella said. “I always looked forward to the practices and this year, (the pandemic) changed my mindset to just going out on the field and leaving [my energy] all out there.” 

For spring sports such as lacrosse, there were generally no differences in the number of practices and length of season when compared to previous years. The only thing athletes had to be careful about was masking guidelines.

At the beginning of the spring sports season, many students agreed that it was harder to play with masks on since they could slip up and cover their eyes. Nonetheless, because additional training before the season officially started provided a time for athletes to adjust to playing while wearing a mask, the athletes no longer felt that masks would hinder their performance.

“After about a week, I got used to wearing masks while playing but at first, [the mask] might slip over my nose and sort of block your vision. It’s also definitely harder to breathe if you’re running,” Carella said.

As COVID-19 vaccines became available, students were allowed to take off their masks while playing in a game, but they still have to follow masking guidelines, as well as social distancing, when standing on the sidelines. Overall, although student-athletes have gone through much change in this school year, freshman Natalie Yarmark feels appreciative that she was still allowed to participate in sports.

“I’ve learned so much this year from the coaches and my teammates. I’m really grateful that I got to play sports with everyone, especially the seniors, and get a season in during COVID-19,” Yarmark said.

Though specific COVID-19 precautions for the next school year have not yet been decided, many students believe that no matter what changes will occur, they will still be able to enjoy sports with their teammates.

“If most people are vaccinated [next year], there would probably be fewer guidelines regarding mask-wearing, which I look forward to,” Yarmark said. “I think everyone has a positive mindset about next year’s sports.”

Becky Tang can be reached at [email protected]