The North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) announced drastic changes to its 2020-21 sports calendar on Aug. 12. In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the NCHSAA elected to delay the start of fall sports and play all of its seasons on a condensed schedule.
This meant no summer practices, no Aug. 1 tryouts and no Friday night lights to bring in the school year.
For athletes at Chapel Hill High School, the delay of the fall sports season hit especially hard. After restarting their varsity football program last year, the Tigers were going to continue to rebuild their program with just their second season back playing games. The volleyball team was looking to win a second straight state championship, and the boys' soccer team was hungry to claim its third state championship in four years.
While the NCHSAA rulings prohibit in-person practices and games for all sports until Nov. 4, players and coaches alike are working hard to make sure teams are staying connected. Both the boys' soccer team and the volleyball team have been holding weekly meetings via Google Hangout, something both the players and coaches said they have found effective.
For the boys' soccer team, the Google Hangout calls have been a way to get to know the younger players on the team.
“We had 65 players register for tryouts, so the Google Hangout calls have been a great way to get to know the younger players," Davis Boyle, the assistant boys' soccer coach, said.
The older players on the team have made an effort to get to know their younger teammates remotely while they can't practice in person.
“On these calls, we’ve just tried to make the younger players feel comfortable and to let them know if they need anything, the seniors are there for them,” Bryant Davis Jr., a senior boys' soccer player, said.
Volleyball coach Ross Fields pointed out that missing out on playing sports in the fall is a big social disruption for athletes across sports.
“It’s how they start a school year," Fields said. “They’re in the gym about a month before school starts, therefore they become acclimated and are already in a rhythm once school starts.”
Without the back-to-school transition period of summer sports, some coaches said players can feel disconnected from not just their team, but also their school. Fields said this can be especially hard for incoming first-year students.
“For a lot of our freshmen it is a really big thing, they get a bond of new friends before they even have their first classes,” Fields said.
Although the gates might be locked and the gym closed, athletes and coaches alike said they are still hungry to compete this winter.
With the situation around COVID-19 changing every day, athletes and coaches said they are holding onto hope that competition will take place. Hoping that it is in November but knowing it may be longer, Davis Jr. said he will be ready to take the field when the time comes.
“We all have this urge of ‘We’re ready to play,'” Davis Jr. said. “Everyone’s been working so hard, we’re about to go off this season.”
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