Playing in a Pandemic- Student Athletes during the Coronavirus

Tessa Pardon, Staff Writer

As the much delayed and heavily anticipated first round of school sports in Issaquah draws to a close, student athletes have been forced to reflect on what they have gained and lost of their experience due to the ongoing pandemic. As an Issaquah High volleyball player myself, it is mildly painful to look back to last year’s near-four month season, rife with locker room dance sessions, KingCo tournaments, and even a run at state that made our season of volleyball memorable. This year of play has looked quite different, but has led to its own new and unique experiences, and even added to the beginning of a new tradition to add to the lengthy list of longstanding practices within the program. As our last game looms on the horizon, both seniors and underclassmen alike rue the loss of a normal year, and celebrate the successes that Issaquah sports have offered. 

Many athletes such as those playing varsity sports at Issaquah see athletics as an outlet for the frustrations and tribulations of the past year, and researchers have “found that sports participation during the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with significant mental and physical health benefits in adolescents; those who returned to sport participation in fall 2020 reported lower anxiety and depression symptoms and higher physical activity levels.”Because of this phenomena, the allowance for sports to continue under the looming threat of the pandemic has increased morale and students, like junior Stephanie Cash,  are “happy that we have been doing our best work around the limitations and still have a season.” 

Many have found the guidelines to be relatively easy to follow; senior Claudia Leon even says “temperature checks and attestations have even formed a sort of pre-practice daily routine.” However, there is an untold story in some communities and among individuals that may rely on sports to further their higher learning. Reporters at CNBC state that  “More than 180,000 students rely on sports scholarships to help finance their education every year, but the NCAA has implemented a recruiting dead period until April 2021; this means college coaches can’t have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, and may not watch student-athletes compete or visit their high schools.” This “dead period” forces students to take an unexpected off-season, and restricts the abilities of coaches to recruit and offer scholarships to highly competitive students. Furthermore, many athletes training for future recruitments struggled to play club or school during the pandemic, halting their progress and taking away a year of valuable training. 

Most local teams and players like Annie Lorenz, sophomore, are just happy for the ability to play at all and are grateful that “even though we only had a month together, we still managed to make the most of it,” it will be intriguing to see the longer term drawbacks in schools. Will next year’s teams come into a new year with hope and confidence allowing them to demolish the competition, or will Washington sports suffer the consequences of short seasons? Only time will tell.