Aquatics, football and wrestling resume practices under strict, COVID-19 guidelines

Athletes make do with no ball passing, social distancing

Although+girls+water+polo+utility+player+sophomore+Sophia+Smith+cannot+use+a+ball+to+pass+to+any+of+her+teammates%2C+she+still+winds+up+to+practice+her+form+Aug.+26+at+Sunny+Hills%E2%80%99+aquatics+center.+Unlike+other+sports%2C+those+in+the+pool+are+permitted+to+exercise+without+wearing+a+mask+because+they+are+in+the+water.

Kristima Aryal

Although girls water polo utility player sophomore Sophia Smith cannot use a ball to pass to any of her teammates, she still winds up to practice her form Aug. 26 at Sunny Hills’ aquatics center. Unlike other sports, those in the pool are permitted to exercise without wearing a mask because they are in the water.

Rachel Yun

It’s not the same.

Too many restrictions.

Uncomfortable masks. 

Empty stands.

That’s what many of the Lancer athletes in football, wrestling and aquatics have observed about their return to on-site practices since Aug. 17. As of Aug. 28, volleyball, softball, tennis and golf have not released  practice schedules; however, the girls soccer program is set to hold tryouts Sept. 3, and both basketball teams plan on returning Aug. 31 for outdoor conditioning.

According to the Aug. 6 statement released by the Fullerton Joint Union High School District, sixth period and after school practices during the coronavirus pandemic must be conducted outside, and coaches and students are required to wear a mask — except in the pool and during high-intensity exercises like sprinting. 

All athletes — supervised by their coaches — must remain six feet apart, and outside participants, such as family members and other students, cannot observe practices.

Student athletes are also prohibited from using the locker rooms to store or change into athletic gear. However, they are permitted to use the restrooms.

As with Orange County Department of Education guidelines set over the summer, all equipment, such as barbells and dumbbells, must be sanitized, and athletes cannot share balls.  

Not being able to come in contact with my teammates and shoot at a goalie made it almost impossible to do any realistic game-based drills, work out new plays and shoot — a skill that needs constant improvement,” girls water polo utility player senior Riley Godfrey said. “[But] practice has helped my mental health because it gives me time to release stress through swimming and talking, in person, to my coaches because they always have so much advice and are willing to listen to my problems.”

Wrestlers have been undergoing physical conditioning outdoors since they cannot go back indoors because of social distancing guidelines. They wear masks during stretching and take it off during cardio exercises while maintaining social distancing.

And when workouts are over, many of these athletes say the last thing on their minds is to hang out and socialize like they used to.

“Our coaches are always reminding us to stay six feet apart when socializing, but that doesn’t really pose a problem to us,” sophomore wrestler Jenna Park said. “After practice, we’re all really tired and want to get home right away to take a shower.”

Lancer football’s center, junior Jacob Neumann, is trying to look at the bright side.

“I feel like with everything going on, it’s not a holdback [but rather] an opportunity for our team to get better,”  Neumann said. “This time, I’m excited to get back and start preparing for the new season in order to win another CIF title and prove everyone wrong.”

Nevertheless, the second-year varsity starter laments the times he’s lost with his friends since the coronavirus struck.

“It feels weird thinking back to when everything was normal when I got to see everyone daily, and I feel like we didn’t enjoy those moments enough,” Neumann said. “It sucks that it’s all gone, but it was amazing to have practice with my team again.”

Boys basketball head coach Joe Ok said he remains positive about what his players can and can’t do and plans on focusing on individual practices like shooting and ball handling.

“I think everyone wants everything to go back to normal, but we can’t do that until it’s considered to be safe,” Ok said. “Hopefully, the next step will be for us to play real basketball without any restrictions.”

Since his players can’t do drills in the gym yet, girls basketball head coach Jae Byun said he’s been focusing on another dimension of team building.

“The hope is that we can have some type of camaraderie through an online meeting where we can actually learn the game of basketball, talk about the program values and study it together,” Byun said. 

Overall, coaches and players hope for a safe and smooth return to competitive play come December or January.

“Staying optimistic is my message to the team, and if we’re privileged to play basketball, then it would be something we would consider as a blessing,” Byun said.