Athletes Go Virtual for Sake of Teams’ Health

Kylie Callaway, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

With the playoffs in progress, many athletes are going virtual for the rest of the quarter, an action that raises some questions. Naturally there is a lot of encouragement from staff and coaches to go virtual and make sure the team stays free of the Covid curse.

Coach AJ Alexander, head coach of the boys basketball team, said, “In regards to the encouragement to go virtual and avoid social contact, I think it was the best option possible to minimize any risk of anyone contracting or being exposed to the virus. I know a number of students love being here in person and thankfully if students made the switch to virtual they would only be virtual until the end of third quarter which matches with the end of the boys basketball season.” 

While going virtual may help reduce the possibility of Covid infection, others argue schools are very safe and are doing their part to prevent any outbreak. 

Coach Sara Rohde, whose girls basketball team is ranked #1 in the state and is in the middle of tournament play, takes a different approach to the idea of players going virtual. 

“To be honest, I don’t really like that our athletes were ‘encouraged’ to go virtual to ‘avoid social contact,’” said Rohde. “Schools are a very safe place and as a teacher myself, I know that the best learning occurs in person.  However, it’s the only way our team can be on an equal playing field with every other team that we face each week.”

The hockey, girls basketball and boys basketball players have sacrificed so much to play this year. They deserve a lot of credit, because their willingness for their teams shows a lot. Even though virtual is harder than in-person learning, the students are doing their best to complete their education and play a sport. 

When you’re part of a team, you have to focus on putting the success of the team in front of individual goals. This is just one more thing that plays into that,” said senior point guard Charley Apple.

There were many concerns heading into this season for the high schoolers involved in athletics, the main one being the safety and the well being of the athletes. Coaches had to figure out how to manage teams and even prepare for the possibility of not having a season. 

“Biggest concern heading into this season was trying to figure out how we would manage this season despite the pandemic. Additionally at the same time, I was trying to figure out how I would be managing my classroom. Covid-19 has given our team some hurdles that we have had to leap over together this season, but it has been a challenge worth fighting against to ensure we have one of the most memorable seasons NDA boys basketball has ever had,” said  Alexander.

Coach Rohde is also grateful for the opportunity of a season. 

“Obviously, there are a ton of new protocols, but everyone has adjusted and adapted, and we are happy the WIAA moved forward with a slightly shortened season.   We have had to be more strategic in our planning to avoid entire team quarantines due to testing and minimal contact tracing, but we have all adjusted and managed,” she said.

Another thing that had to change this year was fans. Not being able to have individuals cheer on the players definitely affected the feeling in the gym during games..

We miss being able to have fans and our friends and family in the stands. We always had our friends supporting us at our games, and this season proved how much we appreciated that,” said Apple.

After the playoff win Saturday night, senior Sammy Opichka said it “felt amazing to finally have some fans in the stands.”