The COVID-19 Continuation of Sports
Alexis Joy Viloria | Maui High SchoolAcross the country and even within our state of Hawai‘i, as case numbers continue to rise, many are eager to resume sports. With the total amount of COVID-19 cases nearing five million, nearly a fourth of all COVID-19 cases worldwide, national sports leagues such as the National Basketball Association and the National Football League are starting to resume their seasons amidst the raging pandemic with proper testing and sanitation.
High school athletes in Hawai‘i though are not as fortunate as the professional athletes competing at the national level. As of August 5th, the Hawai‘i High School Athletics Association announced all fall sports will be postponed to January. This rule excludes low-risk sports such as air riflery and bowling. What do the student-athletes and coaches of Maui think of this? Two athletes and a coach explore this question.
Jeremy Peros, Maui High School Varsity Boys Basketball player and Track and Field athlete, shares his take on the pandemic’s effect on his Senior season. “I don’t like to be pessimistic but as a senior athlete, I believe the pandemic will severely diminish my senior season for all the sports I play. If we don’t get a season at all, of course I’ll be very disappointed.” Though COVID-19 is taking the biggest toll on Fall Sports, Peros’ track season this past spring was already tainted by the virus. “I do track and field in the spring. We had our first two practice meets but due to COVID-19 and quarantine, our season got postponed and later canceled after only two practice meets,” Peros says.
Early on, it was hard to see how big the virus would become. Peros was hopeful to return but he soon saw there was no end to the tunnel. “When I first heard the news, I was bummed but hopeful. I knew we were going to miss a couple of crucial weeks of training but I believed that we’d be able to come back before the final state meet. However, when spring sports were officially canceled statewide, I was really disappointed because I wanted to try to make states as well as enjoy one last season with the now-graduated seniors.”
Looking forward to his last season of basketball, Peros is still unsure of how he and his teammates will be able to participate safely. “I don’t know how basketball might be played because as a player it would be tough to wear a mask and you definitely can’t socially distance. I think, at the very least, if basketball games are held, there will be little to no fans allowed.” Peros further analyzes the concerns of athletics at such a risky time in history. “If one athlete catches COVID-19, how can we make sure that they don’t give it to any other athletes or coaches who may potentially spread it to their families and friends? And if we were to test every day for example, how will we cover those additional costs?”
Still, Peros tries to remain optimistic about what could come. “Even if we do get a season though, even if the pandemic is completely eradicated, I think it will be in a limited fashion—shorter seasons, fewer practices, little to no travel. Hopefully, though, we’ll get a full last year of sports and one last hurrah!”
Kylee Valdez, former Maui High School Varsity cheerleader and current cheer coach, also offers her opinions regarding the continuation of sports. As a new Maui High School alumna, Valdez already felt the effects of the pandemic on sports. Though she was able to ride out her full seasons of cheer during Fall and Spring, her Spring practices and showcase were not as fortunate. “Coronavirus has affected my participation in sports because practices were canceled. I was also planning on having a showcase performance but due to coronavirus, we couldn’t have it, so all the material we learned couldn’t be performed,” Valdez says.
Valdez was looking forward to a good end to her high school cheer career. “I was bummed because I didn’t expect my last cheer season to end like this. Although we did have our competition, it was still sad to hear that our year would be cut short. I also felt disappointed because I worked on choreographing the showcase that was supposed to happen but because of coronavirus I won’t be able to show everyone what I’ve worked on.”
Although she is looking forward to being a cheer coach for her first year, she acknowledges that in the end, the safety of athletes comes first. “Being a coach, you would want a season but you always put the kids’ health first. What concerns me is the risk of more cases and the spread of the virus. I don’t think it would be a good decision unless all precautions are taken such as temperature checks, being tested, and sanitizing/ wearing a mask.”
When it comes to what she expects the new version of cheer to look like, Valdez sees a need for social distancing precautions and alterations to traditional practices. “For cheer, we might have to stop stunting and we might have to buy more mats so we could have more space to spread everyone six-feet apart.” While it may be the temporary end of stunting, the spirit of cheer will live on. “We might not have a competition this year but we will still cheer for our school’s teams and be filled with school spirit.”
As a former athlete, Valdez offers her empathy for those who will not be able to participate in sports in the way they wanted to. “The athletic program was such an amazing experience for me and it hurts to see that these students don’t get to have the full experience that I had. I feel bad because they couldn’t have the same opportunities that I encountered. I’m hoping they stay safe and are being healthy,” Valdez says. In these tough times for high school athletes, Valdez shares her words of encouragement. “To anyone who is feeling discouraged or feels distressed, just remember your goals and keep your head high!”
Like cheer, marching band has a crucial role in filling school sports events with spirit and showcasing their talent through the course of their many performances. Maui High Marching Band drum major Gwen Jaramillo shares how the COVID-19 has affected Maui High School’s band program thus far. Initially, Jaramillo was displeased at what the pandemic has done to her season but is grateful for the measures taken for the safety of her and her peers. “At first I was a little upset since we couldn’t start marching season on time and I couldn’t go on all of my trips as planned but I eventually came to terms with the situation and am glad that not only our band but the whole school is taking the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe.”
This school year, Jaramillo has already seen a huge setback in the band program. “COVID-19 has already affected this year’s band term drastically. Usually our school’s marching band would’ve started rehearsals in June and by now we would’ve gotten a portion of our show done along with getting our members ready for our first show in September. Now, there’s a possibility that there won’t be a marching band season this year,” Jaramillo says. Though a full season is unlikely, the marching band’s leadership is still preparing for any possibility. “Leadership is working hard to be ready for our members for what may come.”
Aside from the marching band, the school’s symphonic band is also preparing for what changes they must endure. “As for symphonic band, our band director has come up with plans for us to learn virtually and maybe even put up a concert virtually too.” Though times are unusual and tradition has been strayed away from, Jaramillo stays hopeful. “Everything is just very different and a little more difficult since we can’t see each other. It’s really hard to learn/teach how to blend with the band since we can’t play or understand each other’s parts in person. Although this year is very different, I know our program can get through this without doubt.”
This topic is a special one for me as I have been a member of Maui High’s Air Riflery team for the past three years. Seeing how much COVID-19 affected other sports helps me to appreciate the nature of my sport and its ability to limit transmission between athletes and coaches. This does not mean I am completely unconcerned with the continuation of my sport. Wearing masks while having to wear safety glasses may affect shooting, the implementation of social distancing may affect the close relationships between team members and coaches and the state championship is still in the unknown. I also feel for those who may be in sports that are considered high-risk for COVID-19 transmission because I know there are others who have committed so much to their sports and are not able to participate the way they wished. Nevertheless, I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to ride out my last season.
Any situation within this pandemic regarding the interaction between any member of society has its implications, including sports. To return to the state of sports and activities we all wish for, we must be able to address the pandemic head-on. By wearing masks, social distancing and taking proper precautions to stay safe, Seniors will no longer have to miss out on their last seasons, students will be able to show their school spirit at games and the fun time we know as high school will be memorable for a reason other than a pandemic.
Google® Is Not Everything is a monthly column authored by high school students. The title of the column emphasizes that education is more than just googling a topic. Google® is a registered trademark. This month’s guest columnist is Alexis Joy Viloria, a Senior at Maui High School. She is the founder and President of Maui High’s SaberScribes journalism club, and Vice President of the Silversword Chapter of the National Honor Society. Alexis is a part of Maui High’s air riflery team and is also a committed member of HOSA-Future Health Professionals as the Secondary Representative of the Hawai‘i HOSA State Council and a HOSA state gold medalist and international finalist. Alexis hopes to one day become a Pediatric Physician. She is the daughter of Alex and Juvy Viloria.