Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

January 1, 2021

Sarah Muir ’24

Student-athletes are beginning the 2020-2021 winter sports season in a new world. The six teams, in basketball and swimming, are uniting from a distance and seizing the moment with the opportunity to play.

After finding success in the fall sports season, Durham Academy’s Cavaliers face new challenges as they enter the winterplaying season . Girls’ basketball, boys’ basketball, girls’ swimming, and boys’ swimming seasons all officially began in November. However, for some, practice began as early as six weeks ago. Games and meets have commenced, all within a new world compared to the one left behind last season. COVID-19 has turned daily life upside down. In the midst of the pandemic, sports have provided athletes, coaches, and fans alike with a sense of normalcy and a lighthearted respite. Preparation, practice, and play have all been influenced by COVID-19, but in the face of such adversity, innovation and adaptation have thrived. This season, teammates are uniting in the opportunity to play.

Keeping student-athletes and coaches safe is the utmost priority; in an email to the DA community, Head of School Mr. Ulku-Steiner said that swimming would take place outdoors this year and basketball activities would be heavily monitored for the coronavirus. Basketball will also require elevated protocols (including mask-wearing at all times, on- and off-court), such as quarantine measures for teams following a positive test, and hiatus or cancellation for all eight basketball teams if transmission is found on any team. Practices require temperature checks and screening before they begin, as well as frequent hand/equipment sanitization and distancing. All winter sports teams have started practicing and began their competitive seasons the week of November 30. 

The winter sports season a year ago concluded for all Cav teams during Spring Break, just before the pandemic took hold. Thus, for these teams, the pandemic’s changes began with the offseason. Programs were allowed to hold socially distant workouts this summer, without contact and fully masked. Preparation for the season began with the return to restricted in-person sports, and the series of adjustments that the teams would make.

Adjusting to the protocols has been a major step in preparing for the upcoming season, for both COVID safety and success for each of the winter sports. Basketball has seen rule changes; for instance, many schools aren’t allowing a jump ball. Physically, mask-wearing while exercising requires practice and added endurance. Student athletes have grown accustomed to adhering to the proactive DA health protocols and restrictions.  Amelia Kass of girls’ varsity basketball explained, “Since the season began, we have always been practicing with our masks on. This has allowed us to become used to running and breathing with them on.” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s recent mandate now requires wearing a mask during athletic activities below the collegiate level, which has been a requirement for DA Athletics since sports were allowed to reconvene. “It’s now a requirement [for other schools] so we are at a slight advantage.”

For swimming, adapting to a new setting is a testament to the team’s resolve and enthusiasm. “Although we’re practicing outside and it can get really cold, the team has done a great job staying committed . . . I’m so proud of the level of dedication everyone has put forth this year regardless of the circumstances,” said Stewart Roessler, a varsity swimmer. 

Amidst the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, carpe diem has taken on new meaning, especially for student-athletes. “The fact that we even get to play at all is very special to us and shows us that we can get through this by giving us an outlet to keep our minds off everything else that is going on,” said Matthew Chaves, a sophomore on the JV boys’ basketball team. Molly Doyle, also a sophomore on the junior varsity girls’ basketball team, reiterated how teams are embracing their time together: “We don’t know what will happen tomorrow or next week, so staying in the moment has become very important.” While they remain optimistic, each group takes the uncertainty of the future to heart by working hard and holding tight to the present.

“I truly appreciate everything that everyone in and around DA athletics has been doing to give me and my amazing teammates and coaches a season . . . I know that we’re all working harder than ever before because we know how lucky we are to get this season,” emphasized Ameya Bellamkonda

Students will not be permitted to attend events, but competitions can be live-streamed through the NFHS network, which can be accessed on the Durham Academy Athletics page. The pandemic has caused schedule changes and may continue to do so throughout the season, and those updates can also be found on the main athletics page

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