For the past couple of weeks, the Ukiah High volleyball team has been practicing outdoors to prepare for their upcoming fall season. During these uncertain times, the debate had sparked up whether schools should even have contact sports whatsoever. However, recently, they had been given the green light and other sports teams to begin high school practices while maintaining safe and social distancing.
The California Department of Public Health recently published guidelines that youth sports teams should follow to continue events with safety precautions regarding COVID-19 in mind. When asked about possible restrictions that could occur with these guidelines, varsity Coach Brown responds, “I don’t really feel restricted, but I do feel like it is a challenge, and there are many ways in which we have to adapt.” There are many safety measures put into place during practice, such as frequent sanitation of the ball and constant usage of masks, with frequent breaks to breathe outside, to name a few.
However, Ukiah seems to have been the odd duckling out of the competition circle thus far as it is the first school to hold indoor practices. Varsity player Sydney Binkley adds, “I feel our team specifically has an advantage against other school teams down in Santa Rosa.”
Despite this advantage, there are many downsides to this season. For one, the season will be shorter than usual. Second, crowd morale will practically be nonexistent. Player Josie Voldemort expressed missing the fans filling the stands: “I loved when students would come and cheer on the teams, but now at least for volleyball, we don’t know if spectators are even allowed…” And lastly, communications are incredibly hindered due to the usage of masks as it muffles the sounds of voices, an aspect of the game that is essential to the victory or loss of a team.
Although this year may have drawbacks compared to other years, many players are happy to be back again on the court and play a sport they love. Coach Brown’s utmost goal for this year is to “give our athletes as many opportunities as possible to play volleyball safely and to have fun!”