Student-athletes should push on through the pandemic

Many+student+athletes+find+their+aspirations+for+a+sports+season+at+risk+of+further+postponement+or+cancellation%2C+due+to+the+COVID-19+pandemic.

Michelle Moshkovoy

Many student athletes find their aspirations for a sports season at risk of further postponement or cancellation, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michelle Moshkovoy, Head Photographer

If you’ve turned on the news in the last ten months, it is very probable that there was one topic dominating the newscast  — COVID-19. It is seemingly all we hear about when we click our remote controls or respective devices for updates of what is happening in the world, and as much as many want to steer away from it and feign a sense of normalcy — myself included —the reality is that it is hard to not talk about it. The normal high school experience has been heavily altered. Teens find themselves waking up for daily Zoom classes instead of physically being at school; most are unable to see their friends on a daily basis, prom and winter formal are unlikely to happen and spirit events full of musical chairs and water balloons are simply a bleak memory. Another integral part of many teens’ lives that has felt the impact of COVID-19 is sports. 

Whether you’re a sports-lover, student athlete, or like to attend the quad or football games from time to time– you’ve probably felt it. The absence of the exhilaration that sports brought, allowing students to socialize and support their fellow classmates —  something that people of all ages rallied around in the Burlingame community. Since the last day of being at Burlingame in person on Mar. 13, not one sports game has been played.

I certainly felt its absence as a two sport athlete who plays basketball and tennis. Tennis is one of the most COVID-friendly sports, while basketball is not. And so, I actually have been able to play tennis, while the last time I played basketball in an organized setting with referries, a scoreboard, and teammates was last March. However, things were looking up in the summer and early fall, and I was able to do conditioning on the track with the basketball program in October. My coach even told us we had the greenlight to move into the gym soon, while wearing masks and social distancing. Despite the restrictions that we would have to follow, all of which I understood and felt were justified, I couldn’t believe what he had just said. The gym? After months of not being in an indoor basketball court, we could finally do it? Ah, I was so excited!

I missed being able to see teammates, coaches and familiar faces: the warm community that sports offer. We trained in the gym for a few weeks and all was well, however as fast as we were able to return, it all came crashing down. Instantaneously, San Mateo County moved to the red tier and then the purple tier. In November, we found ourselves back at square one — on the track with indoor facilities closed. And for much of December and January, a stay-at-home was implemented, which while still allowing for conditioning, sprinkled more uncertainty into the air. But with Gov. Gavin Newsom recently lifting the order as projections for cases trend down, many are both optimistic and wary about the future.

The uncertainty of when we’ll be returning to school and the return of most sports is disappointing, but also understandable with the ever changing number of cases. Nonetheless, I can’t shake the athlete in me that wants organized basketball to be back, welcoming whatever restrictions it might entail if it were to return. Perhaps we will be able to shoot the ball in the company of our friends, maybe just a little bit of a distance away. And who knows, maybe basketball, along with other select sports will be able to take place in some form, with cases finally starting to slowly dip.

That said, I think it’s important to find a balance between being optimistic and reasonable, and with the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) ruling that basketball can only happen in the yellow tier, I understand that going from the purple tier to the yellow tier within two months isn’t completely off the table, but that the cards are stacked against it. With season 1 sports eligible to play under the purple tier having already started on Jan. 25 and season 2 tentatively scheduled for Mar. 15, time is ticking for sports only eligible to play in the yellow tier, and those that are allowed to play in the red tier and below, with basketball falling into a season 2 sport and tennis being a season 1 sport. 

All said and done, countless other student-athletes and I have to remind ourselves — this problem is bigger than all of us. No one wanted this pandemic to stretch into early 2021 and damage the likelihoods of highly anticipated seasons, but that’s exactly what’s happened. The word unprecedented feels overused, but it really is a fitting way to encapsulate this moment in history. Inevitably, this unprecedented time has called for unprecedented measures, and in turn has caused unprecedented changes. And not having access to certain sports and activities is one of them, which is a pill we have to swallow for the greater good of all of us in mind, in hopes that we can come out victorious over this pandemic sooner than later. 

Not being able to slip on a Burlingame panthers basketball jersey until I’m possibly seventeen, and the last time I put it on being when I was fifteen is a daunting thought. However, solely focusing on that is a mentality that is not going to take us anywhere. 

Many people have used this prolonged quarantine to improve on their weaknesses and work on their craft, and I think the same should continue to be done until the doors open —and we’re allowed to flood back into our respective sports. I too have to get better at following this piece of advice; I know that asking hungry teens to wait patiently while the world continues to try to wrest back a sense of normalcy, isn’t easy. And for some, there may be a lack of motivation because of the continued uncertainty of so many sports schedules.

 I’ve been on both ends of this spectrum. For the first few months of quarantine it was discouraging. Even the National Basketball Association (NBA) was on hiatus, and when Mills High School’s basketball courts, which I lived close to, removed their rims due to people disregarding social distancing rules, my motivation wavered. As the summer began, I found myself frequently playing tennis, a much more COVID-friendly sport. And then in the fall, the rims were put back on, basketball conditioning began, and a realistic timeline for when tennis would come back also became more clear. I felt more hopeful and motivated, because it was as though there was something to work towards. And after going through this experience, I really do feel like staying prepared is the best thing we can do, so that when the moment does come — we’ll be ready for it.  

I hope that we as student athletes can continue to improve on whatever sport we play, as there are still a plethora of options available for us.

With many outdoor basketball courts open, hoopers still have a chance to play while being cautious. Many fields are open and so are select tracks, outdoor pools, and tennis courts. It’s not totally implausible to work on an aspect or to find a way to play your sport in some shape or form. 

 

While there is a chance I might not get a basketball season, I’m thankful and excited that I at least have the opportunity to play a game that I’ve grown to love too in tennis.

However, I understand that not everyone is going to get a happy ending in this pandemic-stricken sports world. For the athletes that might not have a season at all, I encourage you to have an open mind about sports that are probable to happen next school year. 

I can’t put myself in a senior’s shoes or begin to comprehend how it must feel for those that won’t get a chance at another season and were so excited for their “last ride.” But for what it’s worth, in a world that is out of our control, we still can control our attitudes. Play your sport recreationally if it is safe to do so, or try to find purpose in other things, like playing an instrument, among other outlets. 

With vaccines rolling out and projected to be widely dispersed by the middle of this year, we’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel — it may be a little dim — but it is starting to come into fruition. It wouldn’t be surprising if the virus continues to fluctuate, especially in California, however, now more than ever, there is reason to work towards something. There will be a day where we’re allowed to high-five our teammates without a second thought , go to concerts and return to what we took advantage of ten months ago. But until then, we must work with what we have and continue to wait. Wait intently and patiently.