Student athletes anticipate return to normalcy

September 10, 2021 — by Stephanie Sun and Martin Xu
Photo by Mina Yeap
The football team practices after school with no masks and minimal distancing. 
With COVID-19 cases on the decline, sports restrictions are gradually being lifted.

Following a year of heavy COVID-19 restrictions — limited spectators, masked players and shortened seasons — coaches and players are excited for a  return to normal sports season.

Following a decline in COVID-19 cases in California, fall sports started on Aug. 15 while winter and spring sports are scheduled to start in December and February, respectively. 

“Athletics is such a big part of the high school experience, so it’s really good to see that everything’s back on track and people are back to using the weight room,” athletics director Rick Ellis said. 

Many of last season’s restrictions have been lifted, including limitations on spectators and the number of school extracurriculars students can participate in. Teams are also no longer required to sanitize sporting equipment between uses and athletes will not need COVID-19 testing prior to each game. Though indoor sports will require masks for players, coaches and spectators, outdoor sports will recommend but not reinforce the rule. In addition, sports have returned from last year’s shortened six-week season to the standard 12-week season. 

Ellis believes that with the decline in COVID-19 cases and the rise in vaccinations, the removal of the restrictions won’t deter student safety, citing the 80 percent vaccination rate in Santa Clara County

“Statistically, that figure is super significant,” Ellis said. “Given those numbers, I’m confident about the safety of our athletes. I feel safe and I think students feel safe, particularly if they’ve been vaccinated.” 

He also said that despite some COVID-19 variants like the Delta and Lambda currently circulating, no student athletes have expressed concerns to him about the virus. 

For junior Emily Lu, a libero on the varsity volleyball team, the eased restrictions have relieved some burdens from last season, such as having to sanitize the volleyball after every play. 

Despite the benefits of lifted restrictions, Lu said she still has a few concerns regarding safety. 

“Having masks off is much more convenient when playing volleyball, but it feels sort of unsafe and unnatural,” Lu said. “I still keep my mask on just in case.” 

Last year, the football team had a rough season with their last game canceled due to a player on another team contracting COVID-19. They also experienced a decreased budget, as COVID protocols restricted them from fundraising, senior wide receiver Parsa Hashemi said. However, he said that the eased sports restrictions are exciting and promising for the upcoming seasons. 

“This season has had a pretty decent start compared to last season,” Hashemi said. “The level of strictness [regarding COVID-related protocols] has decreased overall which has made us a lot more positive as a team on the outlook of how things are going to go.” 

For many students, families and staff, the current and upcoming sports seasons represent a feeling of normalcy.

“I’m just excited to be back as I’m ready to prove everyone who doesn’t believe in this team wrong,” Hashemi said. “I know I speak for all athletes when I say it’s good to be back.”