Picture this: It’s 2:35 p.m. after a long school day where you had to take a calculus test and deliver an English presentation. On the bright side, later that day you and your teammates change in the locker room and take the court to a cheering crowd of your parents and classmates, listening to pump-up music, as you prepare to win your basketball game. However, during this chaotic and bizarre Covid-19 pandemic year, this is far from reality. As the fall sports season has come and gone, West Essex athletes socially distance and prepare in hopes of having a successful winter sports season.
The winter sports season usually happens in one rough timeline, but due to the need to follow CDC guidelines, winter sports will be split into three phases. The first phase featured Boys and Girls Basketball and Fencing practicing in-person starting Jan. 11 and Ice Hockey taking the ice Jan. 3. The second phase features Winter Track, Cheer and Swimming who practice in person starting Feb. 1. Finally, the third phase contains Wrestling and Girls Volleyball with in-person practices starting March 1. The seasons will have a six to seven week competition (time for games, scrimmages or tournaments) period, a little more than half of what the sports would get in a normal year.
In the event of a coronavirus outbreak, the school has built some contingency plans for the health and safety of all students.
“If the school shuts down and we have to go to a full virtual mode, our coaches are ready for that,” Athletic Director Anthony Minnella said. “Then we’ll just have to reschedule like we did with our fall sports. We were able to get back every game that we lost in every sport besides Football which is different because we can only place once a week.”
Along with dealing with the issues of the coronavirus, another consequence of the pandemic would be a concern for team chemistry, as players will no longer share a locker room, and have crucial bonding time there.
The hockey program, for example, has confronted this issue head on, putting team chemistry as one of their main priorities.
“Getting together on zoom chats or google meets and seeing all of the friendly faces helped to bring us together,” Assistant Ice Hockey Coach Tim Shea said. “During the shut-down on winter sports, we were able to have in-person workouts on the turf or in the parking lot, and then at the end, we held a street hockey tournament. I think that it really helped bring the players together, and helped the guys have some fun before the season started, despite not being able to get on the ice.”
While going to these games isn’t a big possibility right now, students, parents, or anyone interested can watch home games in the main gym using this website. The athletic program was able to succeed in the fall season, but with sports moving indoors it remains to be seen how successful this season will be. One thing is for certain, the school will make every effort to safely continue all winter sports this year.