Masking up to Play Ball


Julia Keeran, Writer

This year’s girls basketball season looked a lot different. First of all, it started in January rather than November and information about practice and games kept changing. Usually tryouts last one to two weeks, but everyone who wanted to play and came to practice made the team. Park’s team still only had ten girls who made up the varsity team, including two freshmen. 

Imagine being a freshman, not being allowed in your new school building due to the COVID-19 pandemic and your first day in the school is for varsity basketball practice. Izzy Wentorf shared her thoughts: “It was kind of unexpected. I was nervous at first because I was a freshman and didn’t know most of the girls but in the end I got to know them and had an amazing time. Even though we are in such weird times it was really nice to do something semi-normal.” 

For returning players though, practices were noticeably different than last season. Players had to check in before entering the gym, answer COVID screening questions, and each go through different gym doors. Every time a ball was used it had to be sanitized. Dribbling with a wet ball was like a bar of soap slipping through your fingers. At the end of practice, players couldn’t even wait inside the building for their rides. But the thing that players struggled with the most was having a social distanced practice. They couldn’t work on any contact drills such as a simple five versus five or even defense plays. That took a huge toll on us when the games came around. 

Where most people have grown accustomed to wearing masks, it is a different story when you have to run up and down a court at full speed. It felt like you ran out of breath way faster and all the sweat built up in the mask causing them to stick to our faces.  Coaches and referees also had to have masks on at all times, and any coaches or players  who didn’t wear a mask properly during the game risked being given a technical foul.

With the announcement that there would be games came excitement and  even more precautions. Transportation to the games involved seating charts, and players couldn’t even sit next to each other on the bench during the games. It felt very different playing without fans; they were the quietest games. According to Coach Palacios, “I was afraid that the opposing team could hear our every word during time outs because it was so quiet.” 

However, there was a big win that came out of this season: a sense of normalcy. Players could socially interact and be physically active at the same time. Exercising at full effort made me feel healthy again.

In the end, it was an experience I’ll never forget including my first time in the starting line-up and basket as a Park girls varsity basketball player. Believe it or not, I started to sleep better and regained my pre-COVID routine. I was actually able to have social distanced conversations with my teammates who I hadn’t seen in a year. It just felt good to laugh again with people who weren’t living in my house. I’m looking forward to the spring sports season even though I’ll probably have to wear a mask.