Sports at Latin have always been an important opportunity for Romans to make new friends, relieve stress, and come together. But the ban on sports until January has left Roman athletes without these benefits for at least a month.
Throughout the first quarter of the academic year, the Athletic Department has focused on keeping sports running and students active. Even as students began the year online, many fall sports continued to play in-person seasons. The spike in COVID-19 cases forced the school to temporarily halt the program, though. Students are by and large disappointed but understanding.
The disappointment is not surprising. At a time when students are tied to their computers, the need for sports has never been greater. Junior Natalie Ruhana, a member of Latin’s girls basketball team, noted, “I was really excited about the return to sports. Remote learning has made everything feel disconnected, and I was really excited to see my teammates in person.”
At the same time, many student-athletes acknowledge the safety issues. “I was extremely excited,” said junior Leo Hoplamazian, a member of the boys swim team. “However, when I thought about it some more, I realized that this season had more downsides than upsides.”
One of the most challenging factors amid a pandemic is the shift to indoor sports for the winter season. Though there are many unknowns about COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has consistently asserted that indoor activities pose a higher risk than outdoor activities.
The winter sports that are being suspended are co-ed squash, boys swimming, and boys and girls basketball—all played in confined indoor spaces that require close contact.
Sophomore Anna Hynes, who would normally be a member of the squash team, said “I’m not allowed to play this year because squash is not a COVID-safe sport.”
Anna is not alone in her safety concerns, as Leo commented, “On a scale from 1 to 10—10 being safest—I probably felt like a 4 to 5 in terms of safety when I had swimming practices.”
Leo also cited the special concern for swimmers. “It is a lot harder considering that we can’t wear our masks in the pool, and therefore, we all have a much higher chance of exposure.”
A lack of safety has not been because of failure on the school’s part to follow COVID-19 regulations. Natalie commented that basketball coaches “took all the safety precautions seriously.”
Junior Lucy Norris, a varsity squash member, noted, “I felt pretty safe during practice, but being inside in such a small space, no matter what you do right now, it can’t be too safe.”
For the players, the beginning of these seasons felt like a tease, as each sport had only one or two official practices before the cancelations. “I got to go to practice once,” Lucy said. “And that day it was shut down.”
For freshmen, the lack of sports has stunted their ability to expand their friend groups. “I got to practice squash one time, and got to run the whole season of cross country,” freshman Laine Reshefsky said. “It was really nice to meet new people on the team. I was disappointed when squash was canceled, because I only had one practice, but we all have to stay safe.”
Many students say they look forward to January as an opportunity for a fresh start, but not as a certainty. Natalie believes that “the rest of our season, if we resume practices at all, will be socially distanced.”
Lucy said that “the varsity squash season will look different if it even ends up happening. It might come back in January or February, but if it doesn’t come back, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Students anxiously await the return of normal life as even the semi-normal sports don’t match the love for a normal season. “Practice was weird,” Lucy noted. “It made me miss normal life.”
Leo noted, “As much as myself and many other student athletes want to return to their sports, it does us no good if we are unsafe.”