Welcome to 2020, where masks are the new norm, toilet paper is the thing to have, and everyone’s favorite (or maybe not so favorite?) app is Zoom. COVID-19 has changed our lives dramatically, not exempting our high school experience, which has been replaced by four hours of staring at our teachers and classmates in their itty-bitty Zoom rectangles. However, one thing that’s remained somewhat constant, is our sports.
Although we could’ve opted to go the route of a school-wide Wii Sports tournament, the Hills community is able to preserve some sense of normalcy in the midst of all the coronavirus craziness by having an in-person fall sports season. Having a fall athletic season is critical; it gives athletes a chance to be scouted by colleges and be granted scholarships, boosts school spirit, and gives all students an opportunity to stay active while participating in their favorite sports.
Although we do have fall sports this year, the 2020 season is unlike any other. Our athletes and coaches are required to follow COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines. Students and coaches must complete the self-screening form prior to practice each day. Everyone must wear a mask when in the lockers rooms or in the Athletic Training room, but masks are not required when the athletes are actively playing or engaging in high intensity drills or activities.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having team-based practices and competitions can lead to a higher risk of spreading COVID-19. Given that COVID-19 can spread via bodily fluids, such as sweat and saliva, some question the safety of hosting a fall athletic season. Ultimately, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) decided that having fall sports would be essential to promote the social, emotional, and mental well-being of students, but whether that comes at the cost of the physical well-being of students and coaches remains to be seen.
Riley Ruane, a junior on the Hills field hockey team, admits that although she knows that the administration did their best to implement practical COVID-19 regulations, she does not feel any safer from the threat of the coronavirus. However, she and her teammates are taking all the necessary precautions to ensure that their season can continue. She’s thankful to be able to still play field hockey this season, saying that “my team becomes a family so I am extremely grateful that we have this chance to still do the sports we love.”
Allie Gordon, a junior on the varsity girl’s soccer team, has a unique perspective on this season. Her advice to all student-athletes during this time is to “recognize that we need to take advantage of this season and not let COVID ruin the only thing we have.” She’s pushing through the various obstacles and making the most of her junior season. “Although the fall season has changed, the team and our love for the sport has not changed and that makes this season amazing in its own way.”
Mr. Haraka, the athletic director at Morris Hills, says he is thankful that students can get back onto the field. Sports are a crucial part of school spirit and unity, and being able to host a fall athletic season will help hold the Hills community together. When asked about what he hopes student-athletes will take away from this unusual experience, he says, “I want all of our students to realize that its not just about wins and losses, but about participation and being a good teammate.” Mr. Haraka admits that he will miss having spectators at games, but hopes that students will tune into NFHS Network to watch all games to support our student-athletes. The network offers a free subscription for all events at Gifford Field and in the main gymnasium. Visit the “Athletics” tab on Morris Hills website to get instructions on how to use NFHS.
While a Wii Sports tournament would’ve undoubtedly been an interesting experience for the entire school, we should all be grateful that Hills has a fall sports season. Having high school sports has helped to provide stability within our chaotic lives. Although COVID-19 has completely twisted all of our lives into strange directions, it has also forced us to adapt and become more resilient. Because of this, our student-athletes are now stronger than ever, and we know that our Knights and Lady Knights can overcome any challenge.