Let’s Go Falcons? The Status of GC Sports During COVID-19

Izzy Graham ‘23, Staff Writer

As the current pandemic has progressed and people wonder how to return to some level of normalcy safely, many Americans have turned to sports to relax and rewind. The NBA finished their season during the summer, baseball closed things out in October with the World Series (congrats to the LA Dodgers!), and the NFL is heading towards the final stretch of their regular season. But what about sports on a much smaller scale, like high school athletics? And what about local high school sports — like at Good Counsel? 

At Good Counsel, many safety measures and new protocols have been implemented to keep everyone safe while ensuring players can still practice and train. Most GC teams have been doing workouts, practices, drills, or some combination of all three. But, before any practice or activity, one must fill out the Covid-19 screening forms(s). In the weight room, masks are required at all times, and social distancing is in effect across the campus. Will Slear ’21, a senior rugby player, also told me that each person gets their own rack in the weight room to better allow for proper distancing.

Additionally, things are done in small groups; for example, half of the group might be in the weight room, while the other half does something outside, and then they flip. Or, groups will be split up when outdoors, rotating through “stations.” And for most sports that held practices, masks were required when on the sideline or not actively doing something. Of course, athletes must still practice social distancing unless on the field or specifically told otherwise. 

It’s hard, and it’s scary, you know, to be doing something you love but knowing that it is super risky. You want to play, and you love your team, but you don’t know what’s going to happen”

— Brooke Entwistle ‘23

As I met with various GC students, I realized that many high school sports teams (especially fall and winter sports athletes) were not as fortunate as professional leagues. The WCAC has moved most fall sports seasons to an undetermined time in 2021, most likely February or April, but that date is not set in stone. That means that hundreds of teen athletes, not just GC students, might have their fall season in the Spring — or maybe they won’t. No one knows what will happen in the Spring of 2021, and if the virus gets worse, there probably won’t be an official season. And no matter what happens, for contact sports, things have been strange. Soccer practices allowed contact, but unlike football or rugby, players do not have to be on top of each other literally; thus, football was not full contact, and rugby is going to be strange whenever the team practices or plays. 

Lastly, there is probably the most critical facet of high school athletics: advancing to collegiate-level. Many juniors last year, who played spring sports, did not get to complete their season; thus, they have little-to-no film or tape, and scouts never got to watch them play. This year, as seniors, they have very little to go off or show recruiters. And with the unpredictability of the virus, no one knows what competition will be like come Spring. The pandemic status, timing, and practicality will all be taken into account when planning a possible rescheduled season. Juniors may get a season to play for scouts and build-up film, or they may not. Seniors with scholarship offers on the table will have to choose to risk injury to play or sitting out and waiting for college. 

I have been so focused on professional sports throughout the pandemic, like wondering if Klay Thompson’s recent Achilles injury will destroy the Warriors’ season or if the Dodgers can win the World Series again next year. Because of this, I lost sight of things right in front of my face. I never stopped to think about what was happening with high school athletics; I never thought about the dozens of athletes I know and how their seasons or teams were affected by this terrible pandemic. After hearing complaints from a friend about their sport, I realized how important it was to talk to people in my community and ask how they were being affected by COVID-19. 

Mathias Tode ’24, a soccer player who just graduated from Mary of Nazareth, is a center-mid looking forward to playing on a GC soccer team. “Why do I like soccer? Well, as with any sport, it just becomes part of your life, so you love doing it. You love going there, you love seeing your friends, and you just love playing”. Mathias also explained that playing soccer is an excellent way to exert stress from other aspects of life. He has been playing soccer since he was a little boy, in Kindergarten, and he played in middle school; but this year, things are a bit different. Along with the required screening forms, masks were strongly recommended at all times during outdoor practice, and many players wore them when not on the field or doing a drill. The drills were able to run normally, and contact was permitted — meaning soccer was played like normal, with tackles and slides, though getting up in someone’s face was strictly prohibited. For now, with the postponed season, the future of the boys’ soccer season is unknown, and all they can do is stay in shape for whenever their season begins. Alongside the GC team, Mathias also trains with a travel soccer team, Potomac Soccer Association, and he said their protocols are the same as Good Counsel (social distancing, masks, etc.).  Practice for GC and his travel team was only a few times a week, though the GC workouts just ended, so Mathias has found some other ways to stay in shape during the pandemic. Since public gyms might not be the safest place to go, Mathias tries to run one mile every day and get outside as much as possible to stay active in preparation for the soccer season — whenever that may be. 

Brooke Entwistle ’23, is a softball pitcher who made Varsity at GC last year, though the season was unfortunately cut short by school closures. She has been playing for four years now, but this is definitely her most unique softball experience. “It’s hard, and it’s scary, you know, to be doing something you love but knowing that it is super risky. You want to play, and you love your team, but you don’t know what’s going to happen”. Brooke said she’s unsure about tryouts for the softball season since Spring is far away and there might not be a season, but the team has been having winter workouts — just like most other GC sports teams. Rules regarding masks and social distancing pertain to the softball team’s winter workouts, training, and any activities they do. Brooke also plays on a non-GC team; they had a summer season, with practices, games, tournaments, with implemented safety measures similar to GC. When with her travel team, Brooke said they use an indoor facility, and everyone must wear a mask at all times. Playing softball under these conditions has its challenges; pitching indoors is very hard, and wearing a mask during workouts is tough. Everything feels very choppy — it is hard to connect with people when social distancing and wearing face coverings. That being said, Brooke, like many athletes across the country, is trying to make the best of the situation. To stay active while having some fun, Brooke skateboards in her neighborhood a lot, uses her home gym and walks outside with her dog. She also said her travel team keeps her pretty active, with lots of running, and she is planning on starting CrossFit at home with her dad during the winter. 

Brady Campbell ’22 is a middle-linebacker for the GC Varsity football team and a forward for the Varsity rugby team. This is his 7th year playing football and his 3rd playing rugby. “I like staying active; that’s something that is important to me. Football and rugby also help take my mind off school for a little while each day, and I love the games and getting to hang out with friends. Most of all, I love my team and the community we are in”. As with Mathias’ soccer season, Brady’s football season was moved by the WCAC to (most likely) Spring of 2021. Brady is unsure what will happen with tryouts for football or rugby, though he is hoping they will happen. Football practices have all been in accordance with COVID safety guidelines, and there has been no full contact. Football requires players to be right on top of each other, whereas soccer at least allows players to stay somewhat apart, so, understandably, football practices have not allowed full contact.

Brady told me that the football team just ordered gaiters to wear under their helmets along with the required masks on the sidelines. To stay in shape during the initial lockdown, Brady said he was using his treadmill at home and just trying to do the best he could. When things started to reopen, he participated in GC’s summer workouts, the football team does M/W/F in the weight room, and he attends drills on the other days. Despite this, playing football with COVID-19 restrictions is hard; it is tough to get back in the groove after not playing for so long, and because of the uncertainty of things, it is hard to be super excited or motivated. Brady is thinking about playing in college, but he is not sure about it yet, since he wants to take things one step at a time and see how the pandemic moves forward. 

Will Slear ’21 is a Varsity rugby player. He’s a flanker or an 8-man, and this is his 3rd year playing the sport. Will reaffirmed what Brady said, explaining that the rugby coaches said tryouts would most likely happen, but there are no specific details because Spring is still pretty far away. There have not been any official rugby practices, but Will and other players have been going to other GC workouts to stay in shape. Aside from Good Counsel workouts and activities, Will has been running a lot and working out by himself; however, staying in shape during a pandemic (with no sports) is much harder than staying in shape during regular times. Rugby is a contact sport, so it will be atypical, and Will is not quite sure how athletics will address that. As Brady mentioned, Will also talked about how college recruiting will be difficult for juniors and seniors this year since many athletes will have minimal tape/film to present. 

Why do I like soccer? Well, as with any sport, it just becomes part of your life, so you love doing it. You love going there, you love seeing your friends, and you just love playing.”

— Mathias Tode ‘24

As you can see, the pandemic has forced sports to change their traditional ways, and athletes have had to adapt to these new circumstances. For seniors and juniors, their entire life (college, scholarships, career) could be affected by the pandemic — but high school athletes everywhere are trying to keep an open mind and stay positive. While some of these unusual changes may take away from the experience or make the sport much different, one thing is certain: the student-athletes at Good Counsel, and all across the world, are still training hard, and their love and dedication to sports have never wavered. 

 

Special Thanks to Mathias Tode ‘24, Brady Campbell ‘22, Brooke Entwistle ‘23, and Will Slear ‘21 for speaking with me and helping with the article.