How Freshmen Athletes Are Navigating an Uncertain Season

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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) has delayed the start of athletic competitions to after Jan. 1, 2021. All 1,605 member schools and more than 800,000 student-athletes in the CIF are navigating the uncertain athletic environment, and this includes the freshmen hoping to begin their high school athletic careers this academic year. 

Thomas Wynperle, who hopes to play both lacrosse and football in the upcoming year, said, “For sports at Loyola this year, it has just been so uncertain because it’s different than anything anyone has ever done before. I just hope that we are able to play a season this year, and I hope I am able to get to know more of my classmates and have some fun.”

The freshmen are anxious and eager to represent their school’s colors on the athletic field and court this upcoming year. However, students are well aware of the health dangers associated with the current situation that restrict them from playing at this time. 

Joshua Lee hopes to join the lacrosse team this season. He said, “I’m always ready to go back, but I don’t see that in the near future. The coaches are doing everything they really can with the limits the county has. Just unlucky timing.”

Freshmen students have also taken steps to prepare themselves for the upcoming season outside of Loyola. This includes not only focusing on individual development but also participating on club teams outside of school, even attending out-of-state games despite the pandemic. Freshmen athletes are practicing and preparing to make the most of their opportunity during this upcoming season. 

Juan Carlos Bermudez said, “The uncertain season is not the best but I’m still treating it as if there were a season. I play soccer and plan to play at Loyola, but I still have practice with my club team and still train by myself. I’ve been going to Arizona and Nevada to play games, so I know I’ll be ready if the season happens.”

The impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the freshman sports includes not only the athletes but also the coaches. Coaches are tasked with discovering efficient and safe ways to prepare the freshman athletes. The positive response from the student-athletes reveal that the limited athletic activities have gone well.

Head baseball coach Sean Buller said, “Players are distanced, masked, and not allowed to handle baseballs bare-handed unless the balls are sanitized after.  We are keeping baseball as positive as possible, trying to keep things as normal as possible.  We have limited time on the field (1 hour), so we try to be as efficient but also allow for the players to enjoy being out on the field with their teammates and coaches.  We are hoping to have workouts and tryouts for all levels after Christmas break.”

Furthermore, coaches that have gotten the opportunity to work with freshmen athletes hope to make the most of their limited time with the new members of their program. This includes familiarizing the new athletes with the program and how campus sports operate.

Freshman water polo coach Christian Astran said, “I think that right now during a Pandemic and all of the challenges of social distancing and remote learning, the Loyola Water Polo Program is helping to make Loyola feel a little more like home for the Freshmen athletes. Water Polo provides an opportunity for our Freshmen to not only improve their athletic abilities, but also to meet new friends and become a stronger part of the Loyola Community. While this season has a lot of challenges and is not ideal for anyone, it is important to continue to provide a safe and healthy space of brotherhood and teamwork during these challenging times.”

The freshman athletes and coaches still keep an optimistic attitude towards the athletic season, and the COVID-19 pandemic has also given the opportunity for the team to grow together despite the restrictions that divide them physically. Athletes and coaches are hopeful to return stronger when conditions allow the various athletic activities to resume at Loyola. 

Freshman and sophomore volleyball coach Kaitlin Collins Pardo said, “I look forward to the season even if it looks different from previous ones. It is our responsibility to make sacrifices this year, so that our country can heal. If 2020 has taught me anything, to be a team is to be in constant mutuality with one another; the choices we make this year may not be desirable, but have impacts on the larger whole. Our athletes are a huge part of that equation. I am grateful to them for their patience and their generosity at this time.”

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