Return to Pre-Season: The Effect of the Pandemic on Fall Sports

April Miller

Staff Writer

Over the spring and summer, huge changes have swept through the nation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, causing high school to adapt like never before. With the advent of virtual learning and sport restrictions, schools across Henrico have never been this different. The coronavirus has a great impact on fall sports, forcing students to adapt to state-wide safety requirements to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. 

The coronavirus has changed sport schedules and impacted pre-season and regular-season training. This year, no sports will begin before December. “There are no teams currently in season,” said Suzanne Criswell, Director of Student Activities at Freeman. “While seasons are delayed, [the Virginia High School League] has passed legislation on starting seasons again.” High school sports will not be permitted to start until the end of 2020. Criswell said, “The earliest sports will start up again is December 7th, if seasons are even allowed.” All sport schedules have been switched around this year. “Winter sports start December 7th,” said Criswell. “Fall sports will be from February to April, and spring sports will be from April to June.”

“It’s been crazy,” said junior Julia Pellei, a member of the cross country and track teams at Freeman. “Cross country is so different this year.” Cross country pre-season training was moved back a month this year, starting in September instead of August. Many aspects of practice have been changed, including the length, frequency, and style of practices. Player safety has also played a big part in the new changes the coronavirus pandemic has caused, with many sports implementing new safety measures in order to reduce the spread of the virus. “When we enter [the track], we have to get temperature checks,” said Pellei. Cross country’s once-daily practices are now weekly, shortened from long runs to 45-minute practices where athletes warm up with their masks on. “At most, we run [for] 45 minutes,” said Pellei, “[and] we’re not allowed to do long runs anymore.”

Photo: Julia Pellei

“We start every practice by running two laps in a mask,” said junior Madelyn Miller, a member of the varsity cross country and track teams. “Warmups are really different now,” Madelyn said. On top of that, cross country practices no longer include long-distance runs. “We can only do track workouts now,” said Pellei.

Some sports don’t have pre-season training at all. “Last year, we had optional lifts in May and June before weekly practices started in July,” said junior Wilson Hogan, a member of the varsity volleyball team. This year, both lifts and practices have been canceled. “The problem with pre-season for volleyball is that there isn’t much you can do without practicing,” said Wilson. “The team can’t get together anymore,” she explained. 

On the other hand, some sports are just starting to practice again. Competitive cheerleading officially began in-person pre-season training on Oct. 13. “We just met on the track for 45 minutes to do some conditioning,” said junior Charlotte Hare, who is excited about the upcoming competitive cheerleading season. This was the cheerleading team’s first in-person workout as a team since March.

These effects of the coronavirus pandemic on high school sports created a dramatically different pre-season and regular-season experience for all athletes, who have to adjust to fewer practices with more safety regulations, or no practices at all. A lot has changed, but Freeman athletes are still giving their all to each upcoming season.

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