Facing COVID-19 Obstacles in Sports: A Closer Look At “Fall 1” Athletics

WHS+Field+Hockey+running+a+socially+distanced+warm+up+lap

WHS Field Hockey running a socially distanced warm up lap

Emily Bruck, Co Editor

It seems in this new reality of ours there’s no shortage of obstacles to overcome. Whether it be a new hybrid academic schedule, navigating our social interactions and connections, or simply always having a mask on hand…clearly life is different. With all these changes, an alternative has been found for school-run sports with a number of  restrictions and even altering game play. 

This fall sports season has been split into “fall 1” and “fall 2” to accomodate our many fall sports options. “Fall 1” started late September, and is supposed to end, ideally, in November. The sports include: field hockey, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, and boys golf. 

So what exactly does this alternative plan mean? It means what the WHS Athletics Department is calling our “competition pod”, which is a group of schools that will compete, all against each other only, to ensure less interaction among towns. The schools are  Wachusett, Leominster, Algonquin, Shrewsbury, and  Westborough. The alternative also means increased safety measures, such as socially distanced bus seating for away games, mask requirements during all sports play, safety screenings through SWAY every day, and in some sports a new sports call called a “COVID infraction.” 

These drastic changes heavily affect student athletes, especially upperclassmen who have already experienced 2-3 seasons and are mourning the loss of normalcy in the best part of their day. However, many students are looking on the bright side, and simply thankful for a season. 

Senior field hockey captain Julia French is looking forward to a promising season, despite the changes: “The rest of the captains and I have been putting in the hours this summer and we feel prepared for what is coming. We’re all so excited to be back playing the sport we love,”  

Field hockey is now a 7 vs. 7 as opposed to an 11 vs. 11 game to cut down on interaction between players. Yet, French feels certain that field hockey will make a comeback, even in these new circumstances, saying, 

“I know we can do it. I am looking forward to seeing what the team is capable of! Roll Rangers!” French comments

Fellow field hockey varsity player junior Emily Hight agrees with French and is so happy to be back:  “It’s so great to be back playing with my teammates… I already feel our new teams building and unifying even under these masks!” 

Senior XC captain AJ McLucas is also thankful to have some version of a Cross Country season. Although the addition of masks is admittedly irritating, most fall athletes would agree that they would prefer it to the alternative: no season altogether. However, athletes will admit that it’s still upsetting 

McLucas shares, “With all the restrictions it doesn’t feel the same… My Cross Country schedule is so modified to the point it isn’t a fraction of what it would have been. It’s very upsetting, but I’m thankful for some sort of a season.” 

Senior girls soccer captain Kayleigh McCabe remarks,  “It’s definitely a huge change from past seasons, especially with the game itself having so many new guidelines and restrictions.” 

Senior Drew Stanton can speak for the golf team, which seems to be back in action and back on track despite COVID-19 and its effects on the athletics department. 

He comments, “The team is looking great! We’ve had some solid scores from the top five guys so far and we’re heading in the right direction for the season!”

Like field hockey, soccer is morphing to fit a COVID safe mold.

McCabe adds, “It’s sad for myself and the other seniors, but I’m just so grateful for the season we’re getting and the support from the athletic department and coaches.”