Down, Set, Hold On…

Matthew McKenna Photo Editor
Rickey Zmmerman 10th running drills with a trash can.

With the COVID-19 pandemic rocking the world, students are struggling to find an anchor of normalcy in their lives. Fans of Wilson sports used to gather to watch athletes compete in fierce competition with other schools. Whether it’s face masks on the field or social distancing to prevent COVID-19 on the courts, everything is different. That’s not a bad thing however. These rules are meant to keep people safe, keep people healthy, and keep people practicing. But how is this new environment impacting the world of Wilson sports?

Wilson High school’s Athletic Director Jeff Evans makes most decisions regarding what can and cannot happen with sports, but he is not at the top of the food chain. 

“The Long Beach Unified School District High School Office provides direction to all of the high schools with regards to if/how/when sports can resume. They receive their guidance from the City of Long Beach Health Department, and the Los Angeles County Health Department,” he explained in an email. 

Evans is only listening to the district, who is only listening to the Long Beach Health offices, who is only listening to the Los Angeles Health offices. Essentially, everything about this is out of the school’s control. As long as schools follow the LA health office’s advice, which comes from the CDC, students will get back to playing as soon as possible. 

Football

Getting a grip on COVID-19 has been hard for many sports but has been especially debilitating to football in recent months.

Since July, they have been conditioning with no weights or balls. Only come late September was the team given access to the weight room and footballs. The team has also been split into two, offense and defense, to better control social distancing and player exposure.

It has been a rough start to the year, with some players not attending practices due to unforeseen consequences of COVID-19. Coach Ziegenhagen believes football season will make a comeback, as will team morale. “I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy,” he says. With hope in the endzone, nothing is stopping our football team from preparing like it’s the CIF champs. 

Surf

While many sports find themselves meeting for online workouts, the surf team enjoys surfing. 

“As a naturally distanced sport, we are able to practice very normally,” said Coach Antone Martinho. First period, surf’s up at 6:30 a.m. and out of the water at 8 a.m. Even with this fairly “normal” environment, students don’t get to do all their normal activities. 

In a non-COVID-19 world, the team typically would practice four days a week, attend one to two contests a week, meet for beach clean-ups monthly, watch guest speakers, and even take a course with lifeguards learning lifesaving skills. None of those extras are happening now.

Although Martinho admits that team morale is hard to keep track of during this time, he reports that team attendance is consistently high. 

Girls Swim

Most sports are gearing up to get their equipment back, but not girls swim. Coach Maggie Twinem shared that even when restrictions are lifted, she will refrain from using most equipment. 

Currently, the team is only allowed one girl per lane while they practice. Between 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., girls are swimming, but only half the team per session. This allows for all girls to get practice time while maintaining social distancing and following all rules. Even with these restrictions, the girls have kept their morale high. 

“Since the first time they saw each other, they knew they could make it through the year,” said Twinem. She assumes this hope will extend to parents as guidelines start to allow spectators in the future. 

Gymnastics

Gymnastics has been trying to form a strong team bond for years now. Still, COVID-19 isn’t setting them back. 

Coach Thourn Heng described his past years as “me me me instead of us us us; everyone was in it for themselves.” 

But instead of even fiercer selfishness, the team has shown compassion and strength. Without equipment, practices are more like workout sessions, even in person. 

“Technique and mental strength are the most important thing for us…it is basically all we can build,” said Heng. 

Because COVID-19 spreads through contact, athletes are put at a far higher risk of getting sick if they share equipment. It would seem the solution is to give everyone their own equipment like football or basketball, but gymnastics equipment is bulky and expensive. President of the team. Arelys Dorantes, 12th grade, says, “practice feels very strange without equipment, especially a (padded) floor.”

Softball 

High school softball is adjusting to new rules and precautions following the COVID-19 guidelines. It is difficult to practice the most important fundamental skills: throwing, hitting and fielding. The first sanctioned softball game since we left school on March 13, will be played in the spring of 2021. Currently in October practices are Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

“We are starting a month later so hopefully that’s enough time to figure out how we can have a safe season,” said varsity Coach George Molina. Coach Molina is still optimistic for the future even through all of the obstacles. 

Boys and Girls Golf 

With the setback of COVID-19, contact sports like football are in a tough position to play, but not golf. 

I think out of all sports golf has the best chance of going back to play and have a “normal” season in March,” said Coach Kurt Holmes. He is hopeful for the future of his boys and girls golf team which should be expected to begin on March 22nd. As of COVID-19 golf is not allowed to play on a course as a whole team, which paves the path for a new opportunity. Players are currently allowed to sign up for chipping practice via an excel spreadsheet found on the Wilson golf homepage. Practice takes place behind the baseball field socially distanced with masks and is limited to five players per practice. 

“This can be very beneficial because most golf courses don’t have a chipping green and this is a good replacement for that,” said junior Emi Sverduk on the girls varsity team. 

Girls Volleyball 

With an impressive 2019 season, girls volleyball is eager to get back into their groove when COVID-19 allows it. During the beginning of the year practice consisted of conditioning at the track field but now practice is through zoom classes and pre recorded videos. 

“I am very optimistic because club volleyball is officially starting so if that is a precursor of what is going to happen in the future then we are on the right path,” said head Coach Carlos Briceno.The Lady Bruins first contest is December 19, 2020. 

Junior Carmelina Infante said “Last season was a great year with new amazing coaches who pushed all of the girls to their full potential.” Carmelina and the rest of her teammates are excited but patiently waiting to resume their cut off fall season to dive back in. 

Boys Volleyball 

Some sports have canceled all types of physical activity because of COVID-19 but not boys volleyball. Coach Jeremy Cook explained that they are able to have safe and productive practices even during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. These practices take place at Marina Vista Park during the boys volleyball class periods, while socially distanced with masks. COVID-19 guidelines have limited the amount of activities the team can participate in so practices consist of mainly conditioning.

“It’s honestly pretty intense, we are doing a lot of HIIT…high intensity interval training,” The teams first scheduled game is December 15, versus Millikan High School. Boys volleyball is working hard and are ready to perform alongside each other again.

Boys and girls tennis 

Both boys and girls tennis teams are working tirelessly to gain the morale they had last year. Practices are every Wednesday and odd days during the week from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Players are required to wear masks when they arrive but once they begin, masks are off. During practice players usually play two versus two games whereas one versus one games happen every so often. Each team has their own cart of tennis balls that they use throughout the practice. 

“It all feels a bit different this year, despite the circumstances we are so much more excited to see each other,” said junior Rachel Arega. First year girls tennis and second year boys tennis, Coach Nick Medina is hopeful for a competitive season this school year. 

“In this time period everything is new everyday, we can’t plan on the future,” said Coach Medina. COVID-19 has affected us all whether big or small within the course of eight months, and the path continues to change everyday with new restrictions, fewer restrictions and spikes, we never truly know what the future holds.

Cross Country  & Track

Along with most sports at Wilson, cross country and track are both holding optional practices for players. Five times a week, conditioning and running is the main form of practice, they are also allowed to use weight room equipment as long as they sanitize the equipment after, which follows COVID-19 guidelines. While players run they are usually not required to wear masks, only when they run by pedestrians on the sidewalk or at a red light. January 9, 2021 is the first set meet, with COVID-19 at the doorstep, meets will surely need to be getting used to new rules and regulations. 

Some athletes are using the outdoor workouts to their advantage to get out of the house to break up the monotony of online classes,” said Coach Edward Hauck. 

Junior Issac Ruiz is doing exactly that, “I’m going to practices because I want to be the best I can and running with the team helps me do that.” Issac and the whole program are training hard with

encouragement from their coaches and each other. Though he does admit this year feels more challenging given the circumstances, they will all be able to push through it and represent Wilson high. 

Boys Soccer

Since the closure of the school, boys soccer has been staying strong and working. Their Coach CJ Brewer has his players record workouts on their own and share them with him. 

At in-person conditioning workouts on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. All players have to socially distance with masks. Varsity, Junior varsity, and Frosh have the opportunity to attend ball skill practices, Varsity and Frosh from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and JV from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.  

To keep players safe, coaches take temperatures before and after practice, have each player sanitize their hands as many times as possible, and have strict rules on keeping masks on. At the beginning of practice, they start with warmup which is followed by ball drills and then expands to game-like scenarios while being socially distant. 

During these difficult times, soccer came off of a hard season, and with low morale, it was hard for the team but Coach Brewer is optimistic that this season will still happen and sees the new squad of players as hard-working, learning from past mistakes, and ready to start the season. 

“Doing these things over and over is boring instead when all is lifted bring the bonding and fun back to the players,” said Coach Brewer. Boys soccer players and coaches are trying to see the positive side and hopefully will be able to get back onto the pitch for the season.

Girls Soccer

Girls soccer has been working hard and triumphing during COVID-19. During each week they have two socially distant in-person practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. with 100% of the players attending practices. 

Coach Dalton Kaufman has players work on technical skills and shooting to complement their demanding training schedules for the players doing club soccer. For the current team, the morale is high and Coach Kaufman is confident for the start of their season. 

We are planning on having a season and will be ready to roll when the announcement is made to begin full-contact training,” said Coach Kaufman. As for any changes that will be made for contact sports like soccer, he believes nothing will be different for the rules of the game, but certain sideline protocols will come into effect. Coaches and players will have to wear masks and post-game handshakes between the teams will be changed to clapping for each team after every game.