This sports season will mark the most abnormal athletic experience of all time, for professionals and amateurs alike. School sports have never been more difficult to plan than now, amid COVID-19. Combining sports with a global pandemic has been overwhelming for Tenafly High School coaches, athletes, and parents.
After weeks of uncertainty and preparation this past summer, the Tenafly High School Athletics Department issued several plans for the upcoming season. With the advent of fall, they have had various ideas regarding participation in sports leagues, how they will check athletes for COVID-19 symptoms, and when the seasons will begin.
Tenafly addressed the issue through phases, which started in early August. Phase 1 consisted of outdoor social-distanced conditioning. Athletes were divided into pods of 10 and focused on the conditioning aspect of their sport. According to the NJSIAA, Phase 1 was “limited to conditioning, skill sets, and sport-specific non-contact drills.” Phase 2 differed from Phase 1 in that athletes were divided into pods of 25-30, and were offered more collaborative activities within their pod. Phase 2 additionally allowed for the use of an athlete’s own sports equipment, which could not be shared with others.
Unfortunately, Tenafly’s fall indoor sports of gymnastics and volleyball were postponed to a period between the winter and spring season. Indoor sports are more troublesome to plan out due to the fact that being confined in a small space limits the ability to follow COVID-19 guidelines. However, outdoor sports, such as football, tennis, cross country, cheer, and soccer, have low boundaries and the benefit of fresh air and were, therefore, more successful in safely participating in these phases.
On September 14, these sports began their pre-season, in which athletes regularly practice while maintaining social distancing guidelines, getting temperature checks before each practice, and filling out COVID-19 questionnaires prior to arrival.
It is an unusual and novel experience for many of our participating athletes. Many of them have been anticipating their season since last fall, and have mixed emotions about how it will ultimately play out. Kira Fleischer (’23) plays soccer and gave her insight on the current situation: “I obviously do not think that the current situation is ideal, however, I do believe that we are handling it well.” Although athletes were not imagining their season to play out like this, Fleischer said, “I am happy that we are having a season and I’m confident that it is manageable, especially because of the safety precautions.”
Non-contact sports—for instance, tennis—have been relatively simpler to handle during these circumstances. Because opponents are on opposite sides of the court, tennis provides a safer environment. “When we are in close proximity to our other teammates, we are always wearing masks and we all spread out during warm-ups,” Abby Kushman (’23) said. “Unlike soccer or football, contact sports, tennis hasn’t changed much and the season is going great!”
Despite the restrictions caused by the pandemic, Tenafly’s fall athletes are making the best out of their season. During these circumstances, athletes have the opportunity to get back into some sort of normalcy, a rare occasion in the course of a global pandemic. Following months of quarantine, our athletes finally have the chance to get back on the field, which so many feel is important physically, mentally, and socially.