When COVID-19 first became a leading factor in our lives last year, almost all sports were suspended completely. For some, this meant the cancellation of championship tournaments, senior seasons, and precious time to play sports in general. All athletes had to accept that we would have to make a lot of new sacrifices just to get on the court/field again.
Coming to campus in the fall as a freshman volleyball player, I was grateful for the opportunity to simply be on campus and in the gym, even if there were drastic limitations, like wearing a mask at all times and only sharing a ball between two people in a 6-person sport. The hope for an actual competitive schedule was up in the air for an entire semester, and athletes in other sports like basketball and football questioned if they would even be able to play at all. We were all playing our sports with severe restrictions that took away the enjoyment that we all fell in love with and the motivation to get better for an upcoming season. Every day, we made the sacrifice of following COVID-19 protocols just to be in the gym and touch a ball.
As time has progressed and the COVID-19 roller coaster has continued on its wild and unpredictable journey, we have finally reached the twists, turns, and drops that we all love as sports are finally competing again. Almost all sports require standard COVID-19 protocols in practice or on the sidelines–masks on, social distancing, good hygiene (for the most part)–but while in gameplay, masks are not required and competition rules are practically normal.
Volleyball athletes, on the other hand, have to make sacrifices every time we step foot on the court, regardless of practice or competition. In order to be considered at an appropriate risk level, the NWC conference made volleyball teams choose to wear a mask during gameplay or not have a season. Obviously, the inner athlete in all of us chose to compete at the earliest possible opportunity, even if it meant having to breathe through a mask in every game and every practice.
As a player myself, I would rather be playing with a mask than not playing at all. Even through all of the intense rallies where I feel like I’m suffocating, or the practices where we can’t hear anyone communicating because it is all muffled, I would rather wear a mask than not be able to play my sport.
While I choose to make this sacrifice every day, it is hard, as an athlete, to see other team sports being able to enjoy the freedom of playing without masks. Basketball, football, and soccer are all able to ensure safety without a mask, and they are closer to each other at times than volleyball players ever get in an entire match. Volleyball is a sport where social distancing can be honored some of the time, and the only shared contact is through a ball and the occasional high five, yet we have to face the strictest protocols.
Despite the confusion and frustrations that my teammates and I continue to share, this is the world we live in now. At the end of the day, we will continue to wear masks until it is no longer necessary because we are here to play the sport we love, and we will do whatever it takes to be able to compete. — Chandler Fleming
Sophomore Shaianne Cambra and freshman Claire Stipsits wear their masks in the middle of a play against Linfield on March 26. Photo by Julien Dagen