By Alyssa Bui '23
Since the start of the pandemic, a countless number of young adults and teens have found themselves out of shape or out of practice when it comes to athletics. For athletes on the Close in particular, some of us haven’t played a sport since last season—which could have been two years ago for fall sport athletes! (Of course, this varies from person to person.) But now that the ISL and IAC game season is finally upon us, how are athletes feeling after such a long pause on school sports?
Last week, tryouts and preseason began for NCS and STA fall sports. I was ecstatic to return to volleyball, especially with so many new faces on the roster. While STA and NCS handled the pandemic rather differently, none of the students on the Close were able to partake in regular fall sports traditions such as formal tryouts, homecoming, and athletic leagues. In fact, fall sports at NCS were completely absent last school year. Thus, the athletes in this year’s freshmen and sophomore classes recently experienced their first fall sports tryouts and preseason that took place in August.
As excited as I was to meet the new underclassmen, it was strange to think that varsity teams were recruiting so many players since we lost seniors from the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021. The impact of seniors graduating was tremendous since so many inexperienced and out-of-practice players were left to fill in the gap. Honestly, I was slightly worried at first about how sports teams would perform. However, my pessimistic attitude was quickly challenged by the enormous amount of improvement and growth that occurred in August. Not only did the new players exceed everyone’s expectations in terms of potential and effort, their eagerness to learn and enthusiasm to play brightened up the courts and playing fields. Furthermore, I also think that the experienced and returning athletes stepped up so that teams were not starting completely from scratch as I had imagined.
“I think it’s one of those things, where coming out of COVID, a lot of people have the potential to be way better than they were pre-covid just because you have that motivation and you think ‘oh, it’s my last year’ or ‘I’ve one less season left!’,” explains Kendall Brady ‘23. Even though this mostly applies to juniors and seniors, the environment that upperclassmen create for everyone else is key to success in games since the positive (and negative) energy that impacts performance is contagious. That’s partly why returning upperclassmen carry more responsibility as experienced athletes.
Now, regardless of skill, experience, and seniority, there is one shared concern I’ve seen among Close athletes this fall: balancing sports and academics. More so than in past years, students are worried about how they’ll manage time and maintain grades. A huge reason for this is because, during the last school year, classwork and extracurriculars were less of a time commitment for various reasons. Personally, I’ve forgotten what I was capable of before COVID: I balanced school, sports, theater, and various clubs. In reality, most students on the Close did—all while getting decent sleep. So, don’t worry too much (especially you freshmen readers)! It’s just that during the pandemic, we’ve lost a sense of our studying and time managing capabilities.
On the flip side, COVID has heightened our excitement for the competitive season as everyone is eager to compete in games, see friends, and be a part of a team. Freshman Ellie Denney expressed that she was especially happy to “get around and know people” on her team, a common sentiment among students. This makes sense since most students end up dedicating hundreds of hours to their sports and teams by the time they graduate. Having said that, I wish all of our fall sports teams good luck as the ISL and IAC approach this month!
And remember that even if school gets hard (and it probably will at some point, but that’s okay), sports is your time to decompress, find community, and have fun!