Social-Distanced Sports

Softball+team+warming+up.

Photo by Madissyn Moore

Softball team warming up.

By Madissyn Moore and Amaya Taylor

She takes off in a ferocious sprint down the unmarked dirt path. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees the ball getting thrown around to her opponents. Willing her legs to go faster, she runs past the first base and sees an opening. As she approaches second base she sees the ball being thrown to her opponent, she slides in a desperate attempt to make it. The ball reaches her opponent just as she touches the base. Her opponent reaches down to tag her but wait-

We’re in the middle of a pandemic. How are contact sports supposed to manage to have little to no contact during a game? If that’s not possible, how do they manage it in practice? Palmer Ridge’s softball and cross country teams have to work around COVID-19 and figure out a way to make the sport safe for all.

Unlike winter and spring sports, their season did not get pushed back. Coaches had to figure out a way to make practices safe for athletes. “We do our screenings before practice and take temps. Once we get that done we are allowed to unmask and as long as the participants are active they are allowed to be without masks. During games, we have an extended dugout so we’re out in the bullpen and we use our fence post as distance markers. The players that are in the dugout have to have a mask on at all times [as well as coaches]. Players on the field do not have to have masks but they are socially distanced,” head coach Jason Romero said.

 It sounds easier than it actually is, so there have been a few challenges. “I think that getting used to wearing masks to and from the field or in the dugout was one of the difficulties that we’ve experienced at the beginning, now it has become a habit,” said assistant coach, Amanda Tivnan. 

Both Coach Romero and Coach Tivnan agreed that one of the downsides of social distancing during games is that they are unable to high-five the athletes and they aren’t able to huddle. The coaches miss that intimacy of the game.

Many athletes were bummed that they weren’t able to play this season how they wanted to. For senior and new player Olivia Tieghe, she has felt the negative effects that COVID-19 has had on softball. Although it has been a tough season, she and her teammates are looking at the brighter side. “[Social distancing] keeps us all safe and I feel like it kind of brings us together as a team. It’s become another obstacle thrown at us to overcome. Even with social distancing and mask rules, we have still become pretty close as a team,” said Tieghe.

Like Tieghe, Coach Romero looks at the bright side, “A big benefit, to be honest, would be to have no parents around, kind of hovering over practice. It allows the girls to be a little bit more honest with themselves and not have a crutch, per se.” 

The softball team has shown that social distancing cannot break their spirits and will not deter them from victory. In their game against Lewis-Palmer, they beat the Rangers with a score of 10-0 in five innings. They also played Cheyenne Mountain and won with an outstanding score of 15-0 in 3 innings!

Cross Country Head Coach, Robert Frost. Photo by Amber Wright.

To cross country runners, the sound of the gun marks the beginning of a race, the beginning of a long run, the beginning of a potential victory. However, this year the sound of the gun also signals one of the only times runners can take their masks off during their meet. Jayden Kailey (10), a talented student-athlete, had something to say about this. 

“ Some of the difficulties with the COVID-19 guidelines and cross country is that we have to wear masks until the gun goes off at the start of the race,” She said. “…and then we have to put it right back on right after we finish.”

This is not the extent of the guidelines coaches and runners have to follow this year. According to Coach Matthew Frost, a big factor that the whole team misses this year are the bus rides to and from the meets. They made for great bonding time, and it created a family dynamic within the team.

“The bus rides have been a little bit quieter than they usually are.” said Coach Frost. “I miss those days where all sixty of us [are] on the bus together.”

Before the pandemic, all were welcome to compete at any meet, but now restrictions include a limit on how many people can race. This limit is enforced through practice as well, where student-athletes are separated into cohorts and permitted to run in small groups. 

Although these are trying times, the team is determined to stay on the bright side and continue competing. “…we get to run in smaller groups during our runs and workouts which is what I usually prefer,” said Maren Busath (12), an accomplished cross country captain.

Busath’s mindset is an important one to have because it is necessary to focus on the positives out of situations like these. 

Another gifted runner and team captain, Colby Shultz (11), expressed his thoughts on masks. “I think the masks are a very good idea…and are a big part of keeping everyone safe…” he said. 

Coach Frost had good things to say about the social distancing guidelines as well: “… the big [benefit] is health, and making sure that everyone is healthy,” said Frost. 

Although runners do not have to wear masks while running or working out during meets and practices, spectators are prohibited from watching their family members compete. 

“For the most part, parents have not been able to watch, which is another disappointing aspect to this [COVID-19 guidelines],” said Coach Frost. Busath is also disappointed by this restriction, as her parents used to attend frequently. “Mostly, I miss my parents being able to come to my races, especially because it is my senior year,” she said.

Even though COVID-19 restrictions have compromised team bonding and full team participation, it is evident that all the sports teams and coaches enforce COVID-19 guidelines and believe that it is the safest way to ensure that cross country runners can do what they love.