By Sarah Brunskill

THE FALL SEASON IS CANCELLED! 

That’s the news all Williamsville East athletes prepared themselves for. Fortunately, many sports still got to play, including soccer, cross country, gymnastics, golf, field hockey, tennis, and swimming/diving. To determine how athletes felt about this distinct season, I sent out a survey to several WE athletes, who could forward the survey to additional teammates. In the course of three days, I received over 30 responses.

Unanimously, all athletes were glad they had an opportunity to play this season. Liz Crawford said, “Having soccer made the start of the year seem more normal. It was a bit of a relief to know we haven’t lost out on everything.” Many agreed with returning to sports making it more “normal.” 

An anonymous athlete said, “The only thing that really change[d] was wearing masks all the time, that took some getting used to but I learned to get used to it.” Playing a sport without a mask can be tiring, but with a mask it’s completely different. The athletes had to adjust to the new rules and play with the masks because of COVID-19, the global virus. Arianna Kramer (Cross Country) said, “We kept our masks on as much as possible while running because it is very difficult running with masks on.” 

Lina Panella (Soccer) echoed that thought saying,“We did have to wear masks while we practiced and games, and we sat by ourselves on the bus.” This was part of the requirement to stay 6 feet away when possible. Carly Moore (Field Hockey) said, “We tried to split into smaller groups to limit interaction.” The smaller the groups, the safer it is for everyone. Keeping everyone safe was a priority at every practice and game.

 Some of the additional steps teams took to stay safe were daily temperature checks, sanitizing equipment, and washing individual pinnies frequently.  

Another adjustment the athletes had to make was the much shorter season. Grace Burker (Field Hockey) explains, “It was tough, because we had several games a week, leaving less time for practice, but I am very grateful that we had an opportunity to compete this past fall.” Since the season was shorter, many games were crammed into each week as well as practices fit in whenever possible many said that this was exhausting. Arianna Kramer (Cross Country) said, “I was very sad because it was my senior year and my very last out of six years. I wish it didn’t have to be cut short because we missed out on so many more races and chances.” All of the athletes this year were upset about the missed time that they otherwise would have had. Regardless of these setbacks, the athletes continued to improve and play their best. Many responses mentioned how overall they were bummed that they missed out on a longer season, but very happy they had one at all. 

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Along with the shorter season, many other things felt different. An anonymous soccer player discussed how athletes needed to be aware of how other people felt to ensure their teammates felt safe. That is an important step in forming bonds, which Ariella Yonata (Soccer) also commented on: “There were no states and regionals, less team bondings, no pregame huddle or traditions, no spirit days at school because we were not in school for the majority of our season.” She missed the “Banquet, Sea of Red, and pre-game traditions.” Scarlet D’amico (Soccer) also missed the spirit days. None of the teams were able to to wear the eyeblack, jerseys, crazy outfits to show off game days. The end of the year banquets where the athletes turned in their jerseys and dressed up to celebrate their season were cancelled, and the support of the Sea of Red in the stands felt different. 

Bella Nestico (Soccer) believed the restrictions made it more difficult to get to know one another. “[T]here were about five middle schoolers on the team that most of us did not know very well and because we could do little outside of practice to get to know each other better, I feel like we didn’t really get to know each other as much.” 

Despite the many new rules and guidelines, teams managed to keep some traditions alive. “I definitely felt like my team was still united. East field hockey has always been a family, and we continued that legacy in the 2020 season,” said Grace Burker. The field hockey team was never separated by the guidelines, even if they were 6 feet apart. Parker Levin (Soccer) said, “Even though we were 6 feet apart, we still talk[ed] to each other a lot.” 

When asked whether or note the athletes felt that this year was better or worse than the last couple of years, responses were mixed. Carly Moore (Field Hockey) said, “The masks made this year worse because it was hard to perform at my best.”  Deepti Subbiah (Field Hockey) said that she “found that playing with a mask when it was cold made my glasses fog up so I played without a mask at times.” Others said that it was a better season. Emma Redanz said that she was “way more grateful that we got a season so it made it that much better to be able to play,” and Bella Cameron (Field Hockey) also said that, “it made it better because I am in a higher level of field hockey and get to advance more in skill than modified. I also appreciated that we didn’t have to wear goggles, it’s hard to be a field hockey player wearing glasses as well as squeezing goggles over your glasses. The negative things were that I didn’t really get to be too close to my friends.” Many felt that they didn’t get to be as close to one another as they would have liked to, and the masks prevented many from playing the way they wanted to. However, they all enjoyed the season that brought them back to each other and in a way that they weren’t sure was going to happen. 

Everyone surveyed hoped that next year there will be less to no guidelines and it will be more “normal”. Many said that they still had a great season. Arianna Kramer (Cross Country) said, “We were division champions for the first time in 22 years.” The varsity soccer team won the league. Varsity Field Hockey went undefeated in their division. 

In a difficult time, it was a winning season. 

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