All practice, no play

Sports Uncategorized
by Rebecca Stotsky, Sports Reporter
graphic by Amanda Fu

Even amidst a pandemic, the fields at South bustle with student-athletes. From field hockey to cross country to soccer to football, athletes are working out and training for game day — except for the football and girls volleyball teams, their practice is not in preparation for the current season. This fall, there will be no football or volleyball games; the teams’ seasons — like those of the unified basketball and dance teams — have been postponed until the new Fall II season in February. Special education teacher and football coach Ted Dalicandro said that this setback is not stopping the team’s drive.

“The kids know that my expectation is they’re putting in the work in the weight room, on the fields, doing the seven-on-sevens and doing whatever they can to prepare for a season,” he said.

Football captain senior Nathan Gelman said that the team’s eagerness to play has not waned. 

“If anything, it’s the exact opposite,” he said. “Now, the team has more motivation to get ready because we have all the time to get ready.”

For junior Jack Foster, the untraditional season has increased the football team’s camaraderie. 

“It’s brought us closer because we have to start doing things on our own and making sure that we’re still getting work in,” he said.

Dalicandro said it’s safe to play football, citing a return to regular games in the National Football League (NFL) and various college and high school leagues in 33 states that have not resulted in major outbreaks. 

“Cohorting kids and doing everything that’s COVID-19 healthy is something easy for me. Football lends itself to cohorting,” he said.

Dalicandro said he is optimistic and that he looks forward to the football team’s season, albeit five months late, in February.

“Friday Night Football brings a spirit that no other sport can bring to a community,” he said.

Gelman said that the team’s goal remains the same: win the Dual County League championship.

The girls volleyball team, whose season was also postponed, however, is discouraged because they are unable to practice or compete as a team, captain senior Hannah Balcanoff said. Volleyball games are played inside in an enclosed space, a key obstacle in today’s COVID-19 reality.

Balcanoff said that over the summer — before the postponement announcement — the team was excited and ready to play.

“A lot of people would show up for captains’ practices, … getting into shape in their own ways, going to clinics and camps and practices,” she said. “Everyone was super excited to be back.”

But news that the season is tentatively scheduled for February makes finding motivation to keep a foot on the gas challenging, Balcanoff said.

“It’s easier to think it’s not going to happen and not get your hopes up. When you get your hopes up and don’t have a season, it’s worse than assuming that you might not have one,” she said.

Since it’s too cold for outdoor captains’ practices, Balcanoff said, the team isn’t currently holding full team practices. They occasionally work out on their own or in smaller groups. Some, like senior Sabrina Ishanyan, continue to play for club teams. 

Ishanyan said that she is able to get indoor touches on the ball, but because of the uncertainty around the Fall II season, it’s hard to know what to train for. 

“We might be even more rusty when it comes around,” she said. “There’s definitely going to be a lot of practicing and getting into the groove of things, if it starts up.” 

Senior Maggie Xu said that although club teams are playing now, a return to school volleyball seems unlikely, as South’s teams range from 20-50 students, compared to clubs’ 10-person teams. 

Balcanoff said that the indoor location of volleyball is the biggest barrier preventing a safe return. Currently, Massachusetts’s COVID-19 guidelines limit indoor gatherings to 25 people, so a return remains uncertain. 

“It’s really hard to know, so [we’re] just taking it day by day,” she said.

The MIAA is expected to make important decisions about future sports seasons in the next few weeks.