“Should schools be back in person? Will sports seasons commence for high schools in 2021?” These questions have flooded the media recently. As we cross the date marking one year since the world shut down, some of these questions are being answered. At Orange Lutheran, students have been on campus for months now, and student athletes have been practicing in hope of a season. Starting in the first few days of March in 2021, soccer and water polo began their seasons, and all other sports, including volleyball, baseball, football, and basketball followed suit.

          While taking into consideration the state of the current world, one cannot avoid the question of how students feel about how things have changed for them in the midst of the pandemic. As a student athlete myself, I have had a front row seat to experiencing new COVID-19 protocols within athletics. However, different athletes have varying opinions on how COVID-19 has affected their life as an athlete. 

          Fa’aeanu’u Pepe, senior, is a four-year football player at Orange Lutheran, and he has had quite the roller coaster of a year. Pepe explains that personally, he was very troubled entering the season during the pandemic, and had actually left the football program before the season began. However, he ultimately decided to come back to the program during his senior year. Pepe describes their team’s COVID-19 measures that center around keeping gear to themselves as well as wearing masks at all times. He explains his loyalty to the sport, and that he wants to leave Orange Lutheran “knowing that [he] finished strong both on and off the field.” While the pandemic has changed the football season, Pepe feels that his team is still family, the same as always. 

          Daphne Stift, junior, is a co-team captain of the Varsity Girls Lacrosse Team, is simply hyped to be having a season in such crazy times. Stift explains that one stipulation from COVID specifically within lacrosse is their requirement to wear masks while playing. Her team has had to focus on “[building] up more stamina than normal to accommodate having to play with masks on.” Furthermore, their season has changed in that they can only play league games. Stift, a low/strict defender, also describes a change in playing style that came with the pandemic–while possessions are usually determined by draws, they have switched to just alternating possessions. While their season has arrived with some change, she still finds the excitement in playing and being with her team. 

Madi Bogan, sophomore, is a varsity girls basketball point guard. She describes entering a season in March as “weird but exciting.” Bogan explains that she seriously doubted having a season in 2021, but feels extremely blessed in that she is able to have one. Basketball is no exception for COVID protocols, as Bogan recounts that as practices began, teammates were not able to pass balls to each other. She claims that her team is working harder so that they take their opportunity to its fullest. The biggest change in playing for Bogan has been wearing masks while practicing, since basketball is a sport that requires a lot of running. Overall she is very pumped for their upcoming games and looks forward to competing. 

Sawyer Voortman, junior, is on Orange Lutheran’s varsity baseball team. He feels confident in his team and their season amidst the pandemic. Every team has experienced different protocols to follow, and one protocol that Voortman describes is “having to clean baseballs if [they] use them.” He also notices that due to their increased safety, practices have become longer. As a pitcher, outfielder, and catcher, Voortman experiences all aspects of a baseball team being required to fulfill safety measures. Even still, he has trust that his team will stay safe and successful. 

Tessa Bloom, sophomore, is on the varsity girls soccer team at Orange Lutheran. She is surprised and slightly overwhelmed that they are having a season, but looking forward to it. Bloom claims that she has had to adapt to several changes this year, including switching their home field, getting back into shape after quarantine, and transitioning from JV to Varsity. Another issue girls soccer has had to face is the lack of spectators, which brings down the noise level and excitement at their games. Despite struggles, Bloom is happy to have the opportunity of a season. 

Sophia Gutierrez, senior, is a cross country runner that has definitely felt the difference between this year and previous years in her season. Gutierrez describes that her season differs this year within their competitions–in previous years, she would run the three-mile against multiple schools, whereas now she competes against one school at a time. However she feels as though her work ethic has not changed through the pandemic. Overall, she is grateful for the opportunity to run during her senior year. 

All athletes that were interviewed have expressed the same feeling – excitement! Entering the season in an unexpected time has brought positivity to the minds of athletes and brightened their thoughts of this school year. 

A huge thank you to Sawyer Voortman, Daphne Stift, Madi Bogan, Tessa Bloom, and Sophia Gutierrez for responding and participating in this article. Good luck in your seasons!

Photo Credit: OLU Athletics App