West Athletes Experience a Fall Season during COVID-19

Girls Volleyball During COVID19

Molly Frost

Wauwatosa West Girls Volleyball player freshman Molly Frost goes in for the serve during a match versus cross town rival, Wauwatosa East.

Annabelle Wooster, Editor

Geared with face masks and hand sanitizer in addition to their typical equipment, Wauwatosa West atheltes followed numerous policies to encourage social distancing and cleanliness during the fall season. Despite the added safety precautions, not every team was able to have a full fall season.

Many student-athletes struggled with masks, communication, and building team relationships.

“In August, it took a while to get used to masks. We have to wear them while doing workouts before practice, whenever we get out of the pool, and after practice,” said Sophomore Swimmer Sophia Zimmerman.

She wasn’t alone. Other student-athletes also found masks to be a challenge.

One of the benefits of playing a sport is socializing with your teammates before, during, and after practice.

Wearing a mask made the usual banter difficult.

“All the times we were inside we would have to wear masks at all times, and before and after the games we could not talk to the other team at all,” expressed Sophomore JV Volleyball player David Kleier.

Student-athletes weren’t the only ones trying to maneuver communication with a barrier. Coaches frequently provide verbal feedback to their athletes during practice and games. Wearing masks made it more difficult for them to communicate information to their players.

Head coach for the Girls Varsity Tennis, Kosta Zervas, understood the struggle. Similar to Kleier, he also noticed that socialization is a huge part of high school sports.

“The two most difficult things were making sure my athletes were masked up when they were not on the tennis courts and reminding all athletes to maintain a social distance from their teammates,” Zervas said. “Humans are such social beings. We gravitate to each other naturally, so it was difficult to have to continually remind them to keep a distance.”

Quarterback coach of the Boys Varsity Football team, Niel Messina, found it was harder to communicate with his players and other members on the football staff. “Communication was a little more difficult than in the past. Talking through a mask muffles your voice a bit and not being able to see someone’s mouth when they talk isn’t helpful.”

The fall season surely had its difficulties, but many students were also able to find positive takeaways. Senior captain of the Girls Varsity Tennis team, Annalise Nelson, found that she became closer with her teammates. Her teammates were asked to only gather in small groups in order to enforce social distancing. She found that she was able to better connect with her teammates in these reduced group sizes.

“Even though my teammates and I couldn’t have team dinners and a lot of team bonding activities, we all got close and spent a lot of time together, especially at the end of the season with all of our tournaments,” Nelson said.

Sophomore Grace Noerenberg, a first-time member of the Coed Cross Country team found that she enjoyed not having to drive far distances for her meets.

“A silver lining to this season was we had smaller, more local meets,” Noerenberg said. “We were able to really find out how we did within our own community and that helped me a lot.”

Other students were just thankful that they got to play. With many schools not being able to gather at all, sophomore Connor Neikirk, a member of the Boys Junior Varsity Soccer team, was just happy to make it out on the field.

“At least we got to play some sort of season while other schools didn’t get to,” Neikirk said.

In addition, senior Sara Stanislawski, the sole West representative of the combined East and West Girls Golf team, also shared the positive aspects of her season. She was simply happy to just be playing her sport.

“I would say COVID-19 helped me to have a more positive attitude throughout the season because I was more appreciative of the fact that I was still able to play with my teammates from East,” Stanislawski said. “Although I didn’t do as good in matches as I would have liked to, I didn’t get discouraged because I was happy to still be able to play golf with my friends.”

Many fall sports at West experienced success, but some needed to quarantine for the safety of the players and coaches.

Boys Volleyball and Boys Football both had to cut their seasons short. It wasn’t an easy task, but everyone involved understood that it was necessary to stay at home and keep others safe.

“It was really tough. We were a group that spent a lot of time together and put in a lot of work together. They grew a lot in a short amount of time, and very suddenly they all had to go home and quarantine,” said Messina when asked about the football team’s experience with needing to quarantine.

Kleier also found quarantine to be long and boring.

“For the most part it was an extremely boring two weeks that I could not do anything. And this quarantine came two days before the State tournament started so we got disqualified and our season ended.”

The team’s preparations for the State Tournament were put on hold. It was a frustrating turn of events, but they understood that safety was the main priority.

As the winter season approaches, Tosa West athletes are gearing up for another couple of months that will surely keep them on their toes. With the fall season providing tips and tricks, but also warning of what curve balls could be thrown next, many athletes know that they need to keep themselves and their team safe.

“Make sure you’re wearing your mask and to do as best as you can with social distancing,” says West Girls Volleyball player freshman Molly Frost. “I know it can be hard, but try and do everything in your power because it’s so hard to be away from your sport.”