In this unprecedented time, people look to come together to get through this, and one way is through sports. Back in March, not only did all major league sports get canceled, but high school and college sports were also put on pause, leading to a canceled spring sports season. However, Kingswood Oxford quickly bounced back by working tirelessly over the summer to create a plan in which students could resume sports in a safe and compliant manner.
Student-athletes are two weeks into the fall sports season and have been careful to follow the strict guidelines for sports to keep everyone safe. For each sport, athletes have been split up into a competitive and instructional group, with a max number of thirty players per team. The practice time has been cut in half, only running for one hour; players must keep a distance of at least six feet and wear a mask when going to and from the field. The guidelines for each sport vary, but all the athletes and coaches are handling them as best as they can while maintaining a fun and productive environment.
Competitive cross country has definitely felt the effects of the newest guidelines set for them. Cross country is normally an off-campus sport – athletes run at the West Hartford Reservoir – but now they must stay on campus at all times for practice. The terrain of the campus has definitely taken its toll on the runners. “We try our best to make the routes we run interesting,” junior Stella Risinger said, “but there are still no hills, and running around campus is all-around much different from running in the woods.”
No contact is not as much of a problem for cross country as it is for other sports, but they still make sure to stagger their start times and keep a proper distance from one another while running. To keep the competitive spirit alive, the girls use one another as competition, always striving to pass the runner in front of them. They also use themselves as competition: at the end of every week, they run a timed mile with the goal being to have a faster time than the week before to promote that competitive spirit.
On the other hand, girls competitive soccer has felt the impact of the noncontact rule. For the first two weeks, they had to keep a proper distance from one another and be masked up at all times unless six feet apart. “One challenge would be not being able to play contact because practices are our only chance to play,” senior midfielder Izzy Jacobson said, “but for now we can only condition and run drills.” The girls have been utilizing this new normal in soccer in a positive way through conditioning and perfecting their skills.
In order to maintain the competitive spirit, the girls have been playing mini-competitions during practice like various obstacle courses and shooting sequences. The team has also made sure to keep the energy high during practice to keep the girls going. “Our team in itself is really good about staying focused,” Jacobson said, “so it does not take much to keep everyone in it; however, we make sure to cheer each other on the sidelines and hype everyone up.”
Boys competitive soccer is required to follow the same rules as the girls; therefore, they too struggle with no contact during practice. “It’s made it really hard to get game realistic practices,” junior midfielder Aaron Rotter said, “and while I understand why the decision was made, I am hoping we can go to contact soon.” Despite the shorter timeframe, the boys make sure to make the best of it and keep up the intensity and practice with the mindset that sometime in the near future, they will be able to compete.
Football’s start to their season was similar to the others as they were not allowed to do contact. Additionally, for the first two weeks, they were not permitted to use balls during practice for the fear of the virus being spread through passing the same ball. With no balls allowed during practice, the team had to get creative. “It is now more about speed training and technique rather than hitting,” senior center and linebacker Eden Nenshati said. The team’s focus has shifted to technique and fitness rather than ball-handling and running plays. The team continues to hope that if everyone follows guidelines, they will be allowed balls in practice as well as a chance to play games in the coming months.
On the other side of the turf is field hockey, working hard to follow guidelines and improve their skills and endurance. “Field hockey has mainly been focusing on skill work and conditioning since we can’t play full-on contact just yet,” senior defender Captain Keegan McMahon said. Restrictions on what type of drills can be held at practice have given the field hockey girls an opportunity to really bond as a team. The players always make sure to cheer on one another and keep up the spirit and intensity during practice to keep girls motivated and engaged during practice. The team makes sure to practice as if they have a game the very next day, setting themselves up for a very promising potential season.
The KO volleyball program has gone through many changes in order to accommodate safe social distance guidelines, such as their practice location. Volleyball normally is played inside of a gym, but due to the large numbers and small space, volleyball was required to move outside. Nets were set up outside, and the team wasted no time getting to work. “It was hard adjusting to being in a new environment as we could not really dive for balls anymore or play a real game,” junior outside Naomi Wong said, “but we are all trying to figure out the new rules that keep us safe.” Volleyball prior to COVID-19 did not have much contact involved, so many drills remain the same, giving the team a sense of normalcy. The energy is high on the volleyball court always due to the players’ love of the sport and the spirit that defines KO volleyball.
Playing a sport in these times has been more complicated than ever with these new rules and regulations coaches and players must follow to stay safe. KO athletics continues to adhere to these guidelines to keep a safe and productive athletic environment and hopes to continue this throughout the rest of the season, maybe even allowing a game or two to be played.