Comeback on the court: Winter sports return to season following COVID-19 hiatus


Photo courtesy of Stephanie Yang

Seniors Rachel Deaton and Isabel Jones prepare for the birdie during a doubles scrimmage at the varsity practice.

CeCe Lampa, Co Editor-in-Chief of TIY

On Jan. 15, 2021, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the rollback from Tier 3 to Tier 2 mitigations for regions one, two and five, leading to the return of in-person athletics. 


Practices began on Jan. 27, following a weather-related cancellation of in-person activities. With necessary COVID-19 precautions and social distancing requirements, such as a virtual state series for many sports, the beginning of the winter athletic season has felt abnormal compared to past years.


“The return to badminton was a little different,” senior Stephanie Yang said. “I think this is because it is an indoor sport and information is coming to the coaches on a day-by-day basis. Tryouts were a little shorter and practices aren’t every day because of the demand for indoor court space.”


Even with an incredibly shorter season, coaches are working hard to get students acclimated to competing in a sport during the pandemic and the changes it may bring. For senior cheer captain Grace Maniola, the transition has been somewhat simple.


“My coaches have emphasized that they don’t want to “shock” us with going back at full speed all of the sudden,” Maniola said. “Since we can’t stunt this year, they’re doing their best to take that into consideration and our practice schedule has not been overwhelming at all so far. It’s so fun to just be back with my teammates doing something that feels normal.”


Despite a year filled with anything but normalcy, students and coaches alike agree that the return to athletics has prompted a positive feeling of what the new normal can be.


“It has been quite crazy but in such a good way,” York Dance Team coach Alyssa Ortiz said. “It’s nice to be able to give the kids an opportunity to dance again and for them to reconnect with their sport.”


As many students are given the opportunity to reconnect athletically, they are also beginning to reconnect socially. Some of the mitigations have even encouraged athletes to bond more with their peers during and outside of practices.


“Due to the pandemic, we are no longer able to do such things, which is totally understandable, and have to reinvent how we go about certain situations,” senior and bowling team member Holly Santucci said. “We have come up with different ways to stay excited and have fun such as mini-tournaments against ourselves, making bowling “families” amongst the team as well as just sticking around with each other.”


 With a newfound appreciation for their sport and their team, the Athletics Department remains cautiously optimistic about the coming season. For head basketball coach Mike Dunn, coaching the only high-risk winter sport, it has been a difficult adjustment while also serving as an opportunity for growth. 


“This year is very different,” Dunn said. “But, it has made us realize that you can never take anything for granted and that every day we get a chance to be together as a team is a gift.”