Those who opted out of sports relish their return

September 17, 2021 — by Jonathan Si and Minsui Tang
Photo by Mina Yeap
After school, athletes swim in the school pool for girls water polo practice.
This year after the pandemic, students are returning to sports though it may be more difficult than normal.

When she was an underclassmen, senior Mahi Ravi had anticipated her junior year to be one of the busiest years of her high school career. However, after opting out of water polo after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Ravi found her junior year schedule unexpectedly bare.

“Coming home felt empty, since water polo had been with me for so long and it just wasn’t there anymore,” Ravi said. 

Like many other SHS student athletes, Ravi decided to opt out of the 2020-21 season for fear of contracting COVID-19. As a result, she saw her physical fitness deteriorate.

“Since I didn’t have  practices, my only form of exercise came from some swimming laps in the pool and following some YouTube exercise videos every once in a while,” she said.

Likewise, another athlete who opted out, junior Maithili Kulkarni, found it much harder to keep up in practices this fall. Kulkarni returned to the girls’ cross country team.

“Like for any sport, if you miss a certain period of time and come back late, it’s hard to get back into things,”  said Kulkarni. 

Students who took a break from their sports during quarantine also felt an impact on their mental health, causing a decrease in work efficiency and motivation. Ravi said she had trouble focusing since she had much more time at home, and — counterintuitively — found her sleep schedule pushed back by almost three hours because of increased procrastinating.

Although student athletes have found their schedules more packed this year, many have discovered that this forced them to be more responsible with their time. 

“Losing two hours every day, I didn’t have as much time to waste on YouTube or social media, so I got my work done much more efficiently,” said Ravi, who rejoined the water polo team this year. 

Still, she mentioned many demotivating hardships. Ravi felt that, as a result of not competing competitively for almost two years, practices became a lot harder. In her sophomore year, she was on par with or faster than her other teammates, but since returning this year, she has found herself lagging behind and struggling with many of the sets.

“I definitely felt out of shape doing sets — even just of 100‒meter freestyle laps, was so tiring,” Ravi said. “Still, since we were doing so much swimming, you basically got back in shape in about two to three weeks.”

Although the transition from getting almost no exercise at all to playing a sport may have been rough, playing with a team again helped with motivation.

“Practicing with a team is always really nice because you are more encouraged to perform at your best and you also get to crack jokes and have fun,” Ravi said.

While going back to doing sports after the pandemic may have been physically difficult, it’s only a matter of time and effort before athletes get back into shape.

“Since you’re attending practices every day after school, you get back into shape pretty soon,” Kulkarni said.


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