A Pandemic’s Effect on Sports

With coronavirus shutting everything down schools and sports nationwide, athletes must find new, unique ways to practice.

Written by Jack Weatherly

Photos courtesy of CNN, Cameron Donley, Meghan Martinez-Makowski, and Stratford SMUGMUG

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert stood up, surveyed the room then made the biggest mistake of his life. He deliberately touched every single microphone and recording device in a media interview on Monday,March 9 in an apparent mocking of NBA rules that restricted the media to stay 6 to 8 feet away from players. This raised many eyebrows around the nation and was
seen as insensitive. Gobert became the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus, just 48 hours later. From this point forward, the sports world was in a downward spiral.

By the end of the week the NBA and most professional sports world-wide were shut down. Next was college sports, on Thursday, March 12, the NCAA cancelled the remainder of all winter and spring sports and championships.

The cancellations, postponements, and suspensions of sports seasons went from bad to worse and became a truly worldwide phenomenon as the pinnacle of sports, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, was postponed until the summer of 2021.

Then on Thursday, March 19, University Interscholastic League or UIL extended its suspension of spring sports until May 4. The UIL did include in the statement that it “will allow its member schools a reasonable acclimatization period for rehearsals and practices to occur.”

This means that the baseball and softball seasons were stopped dead in their tracks, but there would still be enough time to finish out the season, possibly. This raised the question: How are athletes and teams supposed to practice and train with all UIL events and school cancelled?

The answer is a complex one. They can still train, but without the availability of the team to practice with, which can drain a player’s motivation. This has been a big learning curve for high school athletes to stay in shape during their time off.

Softball head coach Meghan Slattery said, “ I’m not sure there are many ways in which we can stay in shape other than home workouts given that our sport requires others to throw with, hit with, pitch with and with social distancing, that’s not entirely an option.”

With her senior season put on hiatus, varsity softball catcher Meghan Martinez-Makowski said, it’s really hard to cope with the reality that I most likely won’t be finishing the last softball season of my career, but I also know that I’m working out for myself and not just the sport.”

“We were sitting in second in the district, but are now just waiting to see if we will have anything remaining of our season at all,” Slattery said. In the meantime “I’m following Youtube workout tutorials and going on runs throughout the week, and I’ve been able to bat in my backyard but that’s about it,” Makowski, a 4 -year- varisty player, said. “I also know that if there’s a possibility of our season getting extended, I want to come back ready to play, especially because the girls in our program have worked so hard all year.

Professional athletes and high school athletes alike have remained vigilant in training as coaches and trainers all over the world have looked for new ways to communicate with players, but as gyms and fields all over have begun to shut down as well even this is difficult. Some MLB players have gone as far as hitting in their apartments (safely into a net of course, only slightly annoying neighbors).

For baseball varsity catcher Cameron Donley, it’s all about remaining
prepared for the resuming of the season. “All of the fields and gyms are
closed, so I’ve been doing home workouts with just body weight and then
I will go out for a run,” Donley said. “I also bring a tee in my backyard
and I have a net to hit into to practice my swing.”

Teammate Mark Perkins has also used the times to not only stay in shape, but to push himself to get better before the season’s end. “I’m lifting weights at home with a squat rack and dumbbells because I have to get stronger,”
Perkins said. With all the extra time, I’ve been able to analyze the mechanics of my throwing motion and figure out changes to improve.”

The team had been 10-4 overall record with a 2-0 record in district before the season was put on hold, and were coming off a doubleheader in which they beat Cypress Springs 20-4 followed by a 9-2 victory over Fort Bend Clements.

Needless to say, in this time of uncertainty the main priority is to remain healthy. “I don’t want to reach out to my friends because I have to stay healthy to keep my family safe as well,” Makowski said.

Yet as we hold out hope that these talented Spartans can finish out the season they began, we learn how much our world revolves around sports as they come to an immediate stop. They are our national pastime and entertainment, and we seem lost without them.

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