Feb. 3 was a big day for me.
It was the day — after many months — that I could walk back into my school gym and see my teammates’ faces again. To finally see them all together after more than a year was one of the best experiences during lockdown.
We did some runs in the summer, but there was not a lot of attendance from the whole team. And we weren’t really playing soccer, so it felt nice to have a practice with a ball. Sadly, a lot has been holding us back from getting back into the groove of practicing as a team again.
High school sports during the coronavirus pandemic hinges on whether your school offers hybrid-learning options to all students who want to attend. If your school doesn’t meet the requirements, then bye-bye sports. All we can do is hope for a season.
The return to practice has been satisfying, all things considered. We have been divided into three “pods,” with four to five people in each group. We are to only practice with teammates in our pods to stay safe. We also, of course, must wear a mask and maintain a safe distance from one another while practicing. Protocol allows for two groups in the gym and one outside at a time.
We are each required have our own soccer balls in each pod. We practice drills like toe touches on the ball, dribbling across the gym and passing. At this point, we are focused on getting back into shape and conditioning, in case we have a season.
Being surrounded by my teammates again has been a joy. My teammates have shared many words of encouragement and I feel a lot of happiness when I’m around them. My team is basically my second family.
We have been doing some COVID-19-safe social activities, such as giving Valentines for Valentine’s Day and wearing matching colored shirts during different days of practice. It is one of the highlights during isolation and something to look forward to.
Since practice started, my mental health has improved a lot. From having people to see safely, to finally getting exercise after many sedentary months, soccer has offered a brief return to normalcy that feels like a breath of fresh air. Simply having something to do has made everything better in general.
A lot of student-athletes put immense value in sports; the experience is a way to build social skills, self-worth and stay healthy. In some ways, after waiting and adapting to the new normal, we’ve earned this opportunity for sports to return. My team is still waiting for the green light for a season.
Ultimately, I’m looking forward to having sports again. I’ve had this special connection with my team since eighth grade. I’d love to look back at my time as a high school athlete once I grow old and remember the friends I made, especially since a lot of my teammates are seniors and leaving next year.
If I could wish for one thing to happen this year, it would be to finally have another soccer season.