Student athletes struggle to navigate virtual seasons due to COVID gathering restrictions set in place

Ben Files

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Byrnes

Seniors Marcos Gregorio (left), Ben Files (middle) and Aidan Carr (right) routinely play soccer along with other seniors on Friday or Saturday nights. The new field allows a great place for athletes to train on their own time.

Like most things this year, sports at WJ aren’t functioning properly. There were some remedial attempts to get students engaged in their respective sports, but to no avail. Dominant fall sports, football and soccer, set up zoom meetings to have a virtual practice, but many questioned the effectiveness.

Many fall athletes expressed fundamental problems with the online seasons. Most did not want to sit in front of a screen and kick a ball or run suicides. It is both awkward and unusual in many ways, so most athletes were not compelled to even show up and put themselves through the experience. “There really wasn’t much incentive to show up in the first place,” said senior Will Le, a varsity soccer player.

Coaches also feel a lack of will to set up these meetings anyway. Practices hinge so much on the connections between the athletes and the coaches, and Zoom calls are a direct impediment to this flow that makes practices both helpful and enjoyable.

Some athletes have decided to take alternate routes and not show up for these meetings, and instead, train on their own time. Some, such as Le, made this choice since they preferred not to practice with players at different levels who need to work on things they did not feel applied to them.“It’s better to train by myself because I am able to work on the things that I would personally want to work on,” Le said. These practices involve all players in a sport, from JV to varsity, another reason for athletes to shy away from participating.

Many teachers bring up the “Zoom fatigue” that they are having as a result of having to sit in front of a computer screen for a school day, and the same principle applies for many athletes. “I guess it’s just a lack of motivation,” junior kicker for the varsity football team Will Haberman said.

Athletes are certainly excited to get out and practice and play on the new cork field at WJ, but there is little incentive to get on these Zoom calls nor is there serious punishment for not attending. Most expressed that practicing and staying healthy in anticipation for the possibility of a spring season, was what matters. “When you are playing and practicing outside during a normal season it is much easier and gets better, with online seasons it is much harder to do so,” Penn State commit and varsity golf team member Jake Griffin noted.

The future of sports for the 20/21 school year is still in question, and with the virtual winter sports seasons about to begin, athletes are hoping for a change soon.. The new field at WJ has been taken advantage of by athletes this fall, but sports such as basketball or volleyball, which are played indoors, may run into the problem of not being able to train outside of the online seasons.

Though many athletes have displayed their frustration with either the lack of real seasons or the implementation of online seasons, it is the common consensus that it is the right thing to do. “The best part of outside seasons is to have fun with teammates and compete against other schools, so even though the right thing to do is to have the online season, it really isn’t the same,” Griffin added.

There have been talks of having a very short fall season following up the winter sports season later in the year, but due to the situation with covid-19 looking to get worse, this new plan may not happen. Until then, athletes will train hard, and most importantly, stay safe.