Pali High Athletes Cope with ‘Social Distancing’ and Online Classes While Longing for a Return to Spring Competition
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
With social distancing guidelines having been extended until April 30, all athletic events sanctioned by the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation), which includes the LA City Section, are in limbo and time is running out on the possibility of playoffs for spring sports. Student-athletes are facing the realization that the season could soon officially be over.
Palisades High athletes representing a variety of spring sports shared their thoughts last week on how they’re coping with completing homework online, not being allowed to have practices or play games and having to self-isolate to combat the COVID-19 pandemic as they head to Spring Break:
“While acknowledging the severe social and economic hardships that have stemmed from this unprecedented pandemic, from the perspective of a high school senior, one of the most crushing consequences of the necessary transition towards self-quarantine personally has undoubtedly been the loss of my final swim season. Despite the difficult and demanding nature of athletics, regardless of how much I’d complain about a set, ultimately my time spent at the pool served as a haven away from other external pressures and hardships. Further, from losing my tan and gaining a few pounds, I feel as if I’ve lost the overwhelming sense of community Pali aquatics has provided me, as well as the opportunity as team captain to give back the amazing experiences I was lucky to have. While the pool has been closed I’ve done my best to go on runs at the beach or do in-home workouts, but nothing can compare to swimming! That said, Coach Maggie Nance and I have talked and she’s encouraged the captains to ask the swimmers to submit pictures and videos of themselves working out at home that we’ll post on our Instagram page to encourage unity.
Online schoolwork is definitely tougher in that it’s hard to hold yourself accountable. Loose attendance policies and lack of supervision make it easy to become unmotivated or drop good habits, especially with severe ‘senioritis.’
In terms of socializing, it’s tough knowing that this indefinite hold on meeting in person will likely go into at least the summer, a time where I was expecting to be making final memories with my friends as we head off to college. That said, I’m still in close contact with my good friends and I fully encourage those who can to stay inside and be responsible so this can be over as soon as possible.”
“For me and most of all the seniors this is something we couldn’t have imagined and certainly isn’t something we ever thought could get this bad. This situation has been a rollercoaster of emotions for me. My father is a nurse at Cedars Sinai, which gives me and my family an educated medical professional to get advice and insight from. This eases our minds and allows us to go about our days without fear. Having to stay at home the past two weeks definitely wins the award for most bored I’ve ever been, but I try to overcome that every day. Not being able to see my girlfriend or my best friends is extremely difficult, but that’ll just make the time when this ends even better. While hopefully every family and individual is doing their part to limit the spread of COVID-19, that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences that go with it. For us seniors, it almost doesn’t seem real that our year has just disappeared in what seemed like a week. For me and all of my brothers on the baseball team we had almost two-thirds of the season left to play. The hardest part is the fact that, for us, San Pedro may have been the last high school baseball game we’ll ever play. Most of us will not be continuing baseball, at least competitively, in college, which adds to the sadness. The fact that we may never know how good we could’ve been is something we’ll think about on a daily basis. One thing we can all learn from this is to get every second out of something you enjoy because you never know when it may end. It’s hard not seeing my friends in person and having the routine we’re so accustomed to be disrupted, but we have to do what’s right. If that means we make sacrifices… well then, that’s what we have to do.”
“Not being able to go to the park or the gym definitely makes this whole situation extremely difficult, but one thing our coach Mike Voelkel preaches is to ‘control the controllables.’ There’s nothing we can do about our situation except what’s right and staying at home, which just means you have to adapt. Luckily for us, we have a throwing device called the Bullwhip, which fits around your wrist and allows you to throw without a partner. We use it for warm-up and recovery and in a pinch to keep our arms in shape. Setting up a tee and doing swings obviously isn’t game-like, but there’s not much you can do unless you own a pitching machine. Doing our throwing routines and going over the mental aspects of the game are other ways to keep sharp. Using toolboxes and pipes or buckets of sand as weights is a way to get lifting in without weights or a gym. None of this is normal but neither is the situation we’re in.
Online school has been an interesting transition but it’s gone smoother than anticipated. A lot of credit is due to the administration and countless meetings on how to achieve online school. Many other schools didn’t have a plan and it’s caused headaches for their teachers. Coach Voelkel has been updating the captains and seniors about the possible future outcome for athletics and we’re hoping for the best-case scenario. We’re all talking about how boring it is having to be home all day and not be able to be on the field. I hope this situation makes next year’s team play with even more passion. We’re all hoping and praying that San Pedro won’t be our last game, that every team will be able to compete moving forward and that we can end the year on a good note.”
“It’s been tough since school and softball were suspended, but I’ve tried to make the most of the situation by practicing in my backyard at home. I’ll pitch and play catch with my dad and I hit on my own. Having school at home has freed up time to practice on my own and improve my skills, but softball is always more fun on the field playing with your teammates. We’ve been working hard all semester and we’d finally started playing games. Our season looked promising, especially after beating Fairfax in our first league game. Everyone was excited because they’re one of the better teams in our league and we were looking forward to doing our best and seeing where the season would take us. Softball has always been something I look forward to at school and being able to practice with my teammates and see our coaches after school keeps me going through the day. It’s hard not having fielding practice with Coach Manny and Coach Sabrina and batting practice with Coach Jon. With the gyms being closed I’ve been staying in shape by running on my own and working out at home. The hardest part for me has been not seeing my friends every day. Quarantining has definitely made having a social life more challenging but I’ve kept in touch with my friends and tried to make the best out of this uncertain time. The whole situation is obviously unexpected but I look forward to continuing the season with my teammates and coaches soon.”
“Personally, the hardest part about this whole experience is the fact that I’m isolated from my friends and the activities that school provides. I haven’t been able to practice lacrosse or water polo at all for the last three weeks. Some of my friends practice lacrosse in the parks, but many have been closed down now. Online school is going well. The only problem is wifi can be pretty finicky and the school website crashes occasionally, but for the most part it’s working out well. After all, this pandemic is unprecedented. Everyone is taking it step by step and the teachers are understanding. Socially, I can’t hang out with friends, but we still find ways to keep in touch. Whether it’s by text, phone calls, or playing video games, we figure out how to pass some of the boredom. For lacrosse, we have a group chat where we talk about future plans. We all hope the season can resume, but it’s probably more of a dream than reality. If worse comes to worst and our season is cut short our coach has been talking with teams to have a lacrosse tournament for players who want to put on the gear one last time for Pali. The impact of this virus is felt by everyone in the nation and the world. Pali is no different.”
“This quarantine has definitely been a bit of a downer. On top of losing my last beach season with Pali, which is upsetting on its own, I’m also missing out on senior activities and possibly prom and graduation! My last club season has also come to a halt which is devastating. It’s kind of like my entire life (and many others) has been put on pause. The hardest part of being out of school is knowing I’ll never experience Pali beach volleyball again with an amazing coach like Dane [Selznick] and the amazing girls as well. I’ve been able to practice one-on-one with my club coaches indoors but nothing beats practicing with a team! I miss that whole aspect of playing, for sure. Dane and I haven’t discussed a plan, but there isn’t much to say with how things are going right now.
Online classes are pretty straightforward and take a bit of pressure off of assignments and tests, but I miss being in a classroom and feel like I definitely learn better when I’m discussing with others. I miss my teachers and being able to go to them with questions to get a better understanding of things. I also miss all my friends and the people I’d see every day. It’s hard to think I might never see some people ever again, or at least for a very long time. As for my social life, it’s difficult to keep myself busy without one but its also nice to spend time with my family! I find myself focusing on other things that are productive which is great because as a student-athlete its hard to find any spare time during the school year. My friends and I also talk on the phone a lot to cope with isolation. Other than that it’s been pretty simple and I’m grateful we’re able to continue our schooling on such short notice. I’m trying to keep a smile on my face. What’s important is that I’m healthy and my loved ones are too!”
“Everyone is facing this total life change and, of course, it’s been difficult to adjust. The biggest part of my life disrupted by this shutdown was my senior volleyball season. This year’s team was relatively young, but hungry. This season, in particular, was shaping up to be the most fun I’ve ever had. Early-morning workouts before school provided the sense of camaraderie that was frankly missing from prior seasons with such excellent athletes. Between the weight room and conditioning on the football field, the 5 a.m. wake-ups gave me a sense of school pride that’s hard to come by at Pali. We could feel the growing urge to fight for something bigger than ourselves: that fourth consecutive City title.
The boys and I were chomping at the bit to take on the season and prove the doubters wrong. I haven’t touched a volleyball since our league game at LACES about three weeks ago and my teammates and I haven’t been able to find gym time to lift or condition like we were during the season.
Schoolwork online is hit and miss. In my challenging subjects such as AP Physics and AP Calculus, it’s difficult to truly master the material due to the teacher-student disconnect. Other courses may become simpler, but far less enriching and engaging.
I’ve been in touch with Coach [Dave] Suarez, but there isn’t much to discuss. Like everyone else we’re just waiting to see what happens. I’m slowly facing the fact that I may have worn the Pali jersey for the last time. I wish I had the privilege of a senior year “experience,” but I’m grateful to be safe with my family and recognize the duty we all share to stay home to keep everyone safe.”
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